Carol Benzie, managing director at Aberdeen International Airport, talks record growth and Routes Europe.
You had a record year in 2014, can you continue the trend in 2015?
Last year was an exceptional one with 8% growth on 2013, which had also been a record year. We actually hit our target passenger number for 2015 a year early! We don’t believe that the speed of growth we have seen is sustainable, but we do still anticipate slow and steady growth ahead.
Aviation seems to be in a period of solid growth. Are you optimistic about the future or do you see dark clouds on the horizon?
Aberdeen’s growth has historically been attributable to the global oil and gas and energy sectors. Our numbers do tend to mirror their movements, but we are also targeting growth in leisure markets. So we are optimistic.
What’s your view on the UK Air Passenger Duty? Will the reduction in Scotland make a big difference?
I strongly believe that Air Passenger Duty should not only be reduced but be abolished altogether. Scottish and UK airports are competing for new routes against major European airports that are more attractive to operate from as their country does not impose this tax.
Are you happy with your infrastructure and what improvements are planned?
The significant growth we have experienced in the last four years has led to capacity constraints in a number of key areas. Our new owners are committed to investing in a terminal fit for the future and we are in the advanced stages of defining what this will look like.
How easy/difficult are operations considering your heliport activity? Does the helipad limit your commercial airline growth in any way?
Aberdeen has two helicopter runways, which intersect with the main runway. This affords us much greater flexibility in the number of movements we can achieve at peak times. Therefore, we are not restricted by their operations
How about your network? What are your key routes and what new destinations are on your wish list?
Our top priority at the moment is to attract further leisure opportunities to allow our local community to fly on holiday from their local airport. We would particularly love to see more seatonly allocations to our top three most requested destinations of Alicante, Malaga and Faro as we have a high number of second homeowners in those areas. Houston also figures frequently on our most wanted list and we’ve seen increasing demand for the Middle East.
How closely do you work with partners, such as tourism authorities and chambers of commerce to market the airport and Aberdeen as a destination?
Team Aberdeen (Visit Aberdeen, Exhibition Centre, local councils, transport providers and hotel association) works very closely on our marketing propositions and the tourism offer in our region is exceptional. Castles, golf, whisky, great coastline and beaches, fishing villages, shopping and history all combine to ensure there’s something for everyone.
Finally, tell us a little bit about what delegates can expect from Routes Europe and Aberdeen. What does the airport and city/region offer?
We want to deliver a conference, which gives everyone a sense of place with traditional Scottish hospitality blended with a contemporary twist. So expect whisky, tartan, haggis, castles and a few surprises!