Scottish Transport Statistics No 30: 2011 Edition


1. Introduction

1.1 This chapter provides information on air transport, such as passenger numbers by origin, destination, and type of service, flight punctuality, amount of freight carried, air transport movements, and income and expenditure figures of airline authorities.

2. Main Points

Passengers & Airports

2.1 There were 20.9 million air terminal passengers in 2010, 1.6 million (7%) less than in the previous year. Passenger numbers increased by 50% between 2000 and 2007 reaching a peak of 25,132 before falling again. (Table 8.1)

2.2 Edinburgh airport had 8.6 million terminal passengers in 2010 (5% decrease) and Glasgow airport had 6.5 million, 10% less than the previous year. Aberdeen had 2.8 million, (down 7%) and Glasgow Prestwick had 1.7 million (9% less). Together these four airports accounted for 93% of the total. Over the past ten years, trends for these airports were similar to the national picture except for Glasgow which reached a peak in 2006. (Table 8.1)

2.3 In 2010, London Heathrow accounted for 39% of passengers on selected domestic routes to and from Aberdeen, 28% for Edinburgh and 29% for Glasgow. 66% of the domestic passengers using Glasgow Prestwick were travelling to/from Stansted. London Gatwick had 40% of the domestic passengers to/from Inverness. Other domestic routes with large passenger numbers included those between Edinburgh and Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham and London City, and between Glasgow and Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Birmingham: routes which show large increases in patronage over the past ten years. (Table 8.2)


2.4 The most popular country of origin/destination for passengers flying directly to and from Scottish airports was Spain (excluding the Canary Islands) with 1.5 million passenger journeys in 2010, 16% of all passengers on direct flights abroad. Other popular origins/destinations were the Netherlands (1 million passengers) and the Irish Republic and France (around 0.8 million passengers). In each case, the number of passengers is considerably greater than five or ten years earlier. (Table 8.3)

2.5 The majority of passengers to/from the Turkey took charter flights, whereas almost all those who travelled to/from the Irish Republic or the Netherlands used scheduled flights. (Table 8.4)

2.6 The most popular international airports (those with the largest numbers of passenger journeys for flights directly to and from Scotland's main airports in 2010) were Amsterdam with 1 million passengers and Dublin with 0.7 million passengers. (Table 8.5)

2.7 In 2010, 6% of all terminal passenger traffic was within Scotland, 47% was to/from other parts of the UK, and 35% was between Scotland and mainland Europe. (Table 8.6)

Delays & Movements

2.8 In 2010, the overall average delay was 15 minutes for flights to or from Edinburgh and 16 minutes from Glasgow airports. (Section 3.6 describes the basis for these figures.) Around 13% of flights to or from Edinburgh and 14% from Glasgow airports were delayed by more than 30 minutes. (Table 8.8)

2.9 The total number of aircraft movements in 2010 was 457,000. Edinburgh had the highest number of aircraft movements with 109,000, (98% of which were commercial movements), followed by Aberdeen (102,000) and Glasgow (78,000). (Table 8.9)

Air freight

2.10 Air freight carried in 2010 decreased by 4,105 tonnes over the previous year to 41,554 tonnes. Freight at Edinburgh fell by 3,434 tonnes to 20,357 tonnes. Freight through Glasgow Prestwick fell by 9% to 12,163 tonnes. Glasgow on the other hand showed an increase from 2,334 tonnes to 2,914 tonnes. (Table 8.13)

Other statistics

2.11 BAA's operating profit for the three main airports was £69.4 million in 2010 - this comprised Edinburgh £33.9 million, Glasgow £23.5 million, and Aberdeen £12.0 million. Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd recorded a profit of £2,113,000 for 2009-10. (Tables 8.14 & 8.15)

2.12 There were 1.53 million passengers on services supported by the Route Development Fund in 2010-11, the largest being Glasgow/Dubai (267,000), Edinburgh/Newark (157,000), Edinburgh /Geneva (110,000), Edinburgh/Madrid (104,000) and Glasgow Prestwick/Girona (99,000). (Table 8.16)

2.13 The Civil Aviation Authority's 2009 passenger survey found large differences between the 5 main airports. Business passengers ranged from 8% at Glasgow Prestwick to 54% at Aberdeen. Nine out of ten passengers at Inverness were UK residents, compared with just under two-thirds at Glasgow Prestwick. (Table 8.17)

2.14 While around 41-56% of departing passengers at each airport arrived by private car, there were marked differences in the use of other modes of transport: taxi/minicab use ranged from 9% at Glasgow Prestwick to 36% at Aberdeen; bus/coach travellers varied from 5% at Aberdeen to 28% at Edinburgh; hire car users from 4% at Aberdeen to 18% at Inverness; and rail's share was 30% at Glasgow Prestwick. (Table 8.18)

3. Notes and Definitions

3.1 Aircraft Movement: an aircraft take-off or landing at an airport: one arrival and one departure are counted as two movements. Air transport movements are landings or take-offs of aircraft engaged in the transport of passengers or cargo on commercial terms. All scheduled service movements, whether loaded, empty or positioning; and charter movements transporting passengers or cargo and air taxi movements are included.

3.2 Types of passenger: a terminal passenger is one who joins or leaves an aircraft at the reporting airport, excluding passengers carried on air taxi charter services. A passenger travelling between two reporting airports is counted twice, once at each airport. There are two types of terminal passenger: terminating passengers, who arrive or depart at the airport by a surface means of transport; and transfer passengers, who change aircraft at the airport. A transit passenger is one who arrives at and departs from a reporting airport on the same aircraft which is transiting the airport. Each transit passenger is counted once only.

3.3 Freight: the weight of property carried out on an aircraft including, for example the weight of vehicles, excess baggage, and diplomatic bags, but excluding mail and passengers' and crews' permitted luggage. Freight carried on air taxi services and in transit through the airport on the same aircraft is excluded.

3.4 International Services: services flown between the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and places outside.

3.5 International and Domestic Destinations: the figures in Tables 8.2 to 8.7 are based on the origin and destination of passengers as reported to UK airport authorities by the airport handling agent. Operators are required to report in respect of each service operated, the point of uplift and discharge of each passenger. The figures may not reflect a passenger's entire air journey: the point at which a passenger disembarks from a particular service may not represent his ultimate destination. In some cases the actual point of uplift or discharge is not recorded. In such cases all passengers are allocated to the end point of the service, i.e. the aircraft's origin or ultimate destination. The figures include all passengers carried on scheduled and chartered services excluding those charter passengers carried on air taxi service and passengers carried on aircraft chartered by Government Departments. In Tables 8.3 and 8.4, international traffic figures are given for each country for which scheduled traffic was reported until and including 2004 data. In cases where charter only routes carried less than 5,000 passengers, the countries concerned may not appear separately in Table 8.3, and may be shown under Other international traffic … in Table 8.4. All non- air taxi is recorded individually.

3.6 Air punctuality statistics

3.6.1 These statistics cover both arrivals and departures. They relate solely to punctuality at the specified airport. For example, the information which is used about flights from Edinburgh relates only to the punctuality of their departure, so the statistics take no account of any subsequent delays before landing at, say, London. Similarly, the information which is used about arrivals at Edinburgh relates only to the time of arrival (no allowance is made for whether or not the flight departed on time from the airport of origin).

3.6.2 The calculations cover those flights for which information about the planned and the actual times of operation has been matched - for example, cancelled flights, and flights which are diverted to or from another airport, are excluded (the numbers of such flights are included in the figures which are given for unmatched flights).

3.6.3 The percentages early to 15 minutes late would probably be lower, and the average delays would probably be higher, if these statistics were calculated in the same way as the rail punctuality statistics (the latter are based on the time of arrival at the destination, and take account of cancellations).

3.6.4 All cargo and air taxi services are excluded.

3.6.5 Unmatched actual flights are air transport movements which actually took place at the airport, but for which no corresponding planned flight was found. There may be a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • the flight was a diversion from another airport;
  • the flight was a short-haul flight more than one hour before the planned time;
  • the flight was planned to take place in the previous month;
  • errors in, or omissions from, the records of Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL) or the airport.

3.6.6 Unmatched planned flights are those which were reported in data supplied by ACL, but for which no corresponding air transport movement return has been found. There may be a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • the flight was diverted to another airport;
  • the flight was cancelled;
  • the planned time was for a short-haul flight more than one hour after the flight;
  • the flight took place in the following month;
  • errors in, or omissions from, the records of ACL or the airport.

3.6.7 Average delays: the averages relate to all flights - not just to the ones which were delayed. With effect from January 2000, flights which are early are counted as zero delay; prior to that they were counted as a negative delay. As a result, the average delays for 2000 onwards are not directly comparable with the figures for 1999 and earlier years. This accounts for the whole of the apparent increase in the averages for Glasgow for 2000: when the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recalculated the averages for 1999 on the current basis, it found that they would be two minutes more than when calculated on the original basis. A similar recalculation using the data for Edinburgh for 1999 suggested that the change had no effect on its averages, when these were rounded to the nearest whole minute.

3.6.8 Taxi-ing time: the CAA changed its assumption for the taxi-ing time for Edinburgh airport departures from 5 minutes to 10 minutes with effect from the start of 2001. As a result, the punctuality and average delay figures for Edinburgh for 2001 onwards are not on the same basis as the figures for 2000 and earlier years. However, when the CAA recalculated the figures for Edinburgh for 2000 on the current basis, it appeared that this change did not affect on the averages or the percentage early or within 15 minutes, when these were rounded to the nearest whole number.

3.7 Route Development Fund

3.7.1 The Route Development Fund (RDF) formally ended on 31 May 2007 and has not been replaced although existing agreements with airlines are being adhered to. It has not proved possible to introduce a viable route development scheme within the constraints imposed by the European Commission. However, the Scottish Government continues to work with airlines and airport operators on the development of new international air routes which improve business connectivity, encourage inward investment and make Scotland more accessible for inbound tourism.

3.7.2 The purpose of the RDF was to share risk with airports and airlines by investing in developing routes which secured the greatest economic return for Scotland. Prior to 31 May 2007, RDF support was available to airport operators, not to airlines, for the development of new direct routes which improved business links and encouraged inbound tourism. While most of the Fund was administered by Scottish Enterprise, part was allocated to Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and administered separately, with the involvement of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other bodies.

3.7.3 The RDF concentrated on routes which had high business and in-bound tourism potential. It was used to develop key UK domestic services as well as European and intercontinental links. The aim was to support the development of new services which had an average frequency of at least five return trips per week, which operated on an all year round basis and which would not have gone ahead without RDF investment. For the more limited markets outside of those served by Scotland's central belt airports, the frequency criteria were more flexible. For example, international services from the more peripheral airports could be seasonal with a more limited frequency. To promote connections between Scotland and the EU entrant States, the frequency requirements were relaxed to at least three return trips per week on a year round basis.

3.7.4 The figures appearing for a particular route for a given year in Table 8.16 cover only passengers on those services on that route which were supported by the RDF in that year. Therefore, Table 8.16 may not provide the overall total number of passengers on that route in that year. For example, there may have been other services on that route in that year which were not supported by the RDF (perhaps because they were already existing seasonal services - e.g. operating only in the summer or at a frequency less than the RDF minimum requirements). In other cases, the RDF may have supported services on a route for only one financial year or a route may have ceased to operate, in which case the table will not show any passenger numbers for the next year because the services were not supported by the RDF in later years. As a result, the table has blank entries for some routes for the later years.

3.7.5 The figures in Table 8.16 are for financial years, unlike the figures in the earlier tables of passenger numbers which relate to calendar years. The reason for this difference is that RDF support was provided for financial years - and, in some cases, for only one financial year. Therefore, it is more appropriate to show the number of passengers on services on a particular route which were supported by the RDF in, say, 2007-08 as a single number for the 2004-05 financial year than to show separate numbers for 2007 and 2008. Because of this difference, and because Table 8.16 covers only passengers on services which were supported by the RDF in that year, users of Table 8.16 should be very cautious about drawing any conclusions from any comparison of its figures with those in the other tables in this chapter.

3.8 Survey of passenger characteristics

3.8.1 International and domestic passengers: a passenger is classified as domestic if his/her flight is between two points which are within the UK or the Channel Islands).

3.8.2 Business and leisure journeys: the business category includes purposes such as meetings with customers, conferences, trade fares, armed services and airline staff, studies paid for by an employer, overseas employment, etc. The leisure category includes holidays, visiting friends or relatives, migration, culture, sport, study (not paid for by an employer), etc.

3.8.3 UK and Foreign passengers: a passenger is classified as a UK resident if the UK is the country in which he/she has lived for most of the last twelve months.

3.8.4 Mode of transport: this is the mode of surface transport that was used to arrive at the airport - so, in cases where the journey involved the use of more than one mode of transport, it may not be the mode used for the majority of the journey.

3.8.5 Origins and destinations of terminating passengers: when analysing the results of the survey, the CAA used the former Regions for Scottish origins and destinations. The interviewer asks where did you start your journey to catch this flight?. In cases where the answer is not the person's home, the interviewer asks whether it was a transit stop - i.e. somewhere the traveller chose to break the journey to the airport (e.g. an airport hotel prior to an early morning flight, calling in on or staying with relatives, stopping somewhere to rest or for a meal, etc) - and, if it was a transit stop, asks for the proper origin of the journey.

4. Sources

4.1 Tables 8.1 to 8.13 are compiled from information supplied by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

4.2 Air punctuality statistics

4.2.1 These statistics are prepared by the CAA with the co-operation of the airport operators and Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL). They are produced for Edinburgh, Glasgow and some other UK airports. The first year for which information is available varies from airport to airport: for example, figures for Edinburgh are only available from April 1996, so it is not possible to provide figures for Edinburgh for 1996 as a whole, or for any earlier years.

4.2.2 The actual times of flights' wheels on/off the runway are derived from flight air transport movement returns made by airports to the CAA. The planned times, which relate to arrival/departure from the stand, and include changes made up to 24 hours beforehand, are supplied by ACL. The CAA also uses assumptions about taxi-ing time - currently these are:

  • Edinburgh: arrivals - 5 minutes; departures - 10 minutes;
  • Glasgow: arrivals - 5 minutes; departures - 10 minutes

The CAA matches the two sets of data and resolves any obvious mismatches. For example, if an airline appears to operate a series of flights significantly off slot, the CAA will substitute information from published timetables, where these are available, in place of the ACL slot. The statistics are then calculated from the information for those flights for which the data have been matched - so cancelled flights, and flights which are diverted to or from another airport, are excluded from the calculations.

4.3 Table 8.14 was compiled by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

4.4 Table 8.15 was compiled from information supplied by BAA Scottish Airports Ltd.

4.5 Table 8.16 was prepared using figures supplied by the Scottish Government Aviation Policy branch, which were based on information which is publicly available from the Civil Aviation Authority. (In some cases, the Aviation Policy branch rounded the numbers to, say, the nearest 100 passengers.)

4.6 Survey of passengers

4.6.1 Tables 8.17 to 8.19 were prepared using figures from the Civil Aviation Authority's Passenger Survey reports.

4.6.2 The survey only includes Scottish airports in some years: most recently 2009, and prior to that 2005. Only departing passengers are interviewed, as previous surveys found no significant differences between the characteristics of arriving and departing passengers. The information collected includes: the purpose, origin, destination and type of ticket used for the journey; the age-group, income band, job title and other details needed to determine the socio-economic group of the passenger; the number of people in the party, whether the traveller was accompanied to the airport, and whether the person has flown before; etc.

4.6.3 Each month's sample is weighted, using information on routes and destinations, to gross up the results to the actual level of traffic. The weighting factors therefore vary, but generally, a single survey interview will be weighted in such a way as to represent around 1,000 actual passengers.

5. Further Information

5.1 Further information on UK civil aviation is available from the Civil Aviation Authority's regular publications, from Mrs D McLean of the CAA Data Unit (tel: 0207 453 6258 or e-mail ), and from the CAA Economic Regulation Group's website: . For example, the CAA website includes:

  • a wide range of tables of monthly and annual statistics about airports, including the kinds of figures which appear in Tables 8.1 to 8.13 and much other information besides;
  • detailed tables of punctuality statistics, which give figures separately for each operator on each route, for each month and for each year as a whole, for Edinburgh, Glasgow and some other UK airports;
  • detailed reports of the results of the surveys of passengers, which include tables analysing them by purpose of journey, type of service, type of passenger, origin/destination, age-group, income band, socio-economic group, type of business, etc

5.2 Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd - Anthony Torreggiani on 01667 464 214.

5.3 BAA financial figures - Tom Syme of the BAA (tel: 0141 848 4599).

5.4 Route Development Fund - Transport Scotland Aviation Policy branch: 0131 244 0854.