Emirates Adds Edinburgh -- Then Cuts Flights Amid Fleet Pinch

(Bloomberg) -- Scottish capital Edinburgh is betting on a new daily air link operated by Persian Gulf carrier Emirates to bring in thousands of tourists from around the world while boosting exports of everything from smoked salmon to malt whisky. Trouble is, the service won’t stay daily for long.

Flights that began Monday will be cut to five a week from the end of this month through next May amid a plane and pilot availability crunch, Emirates said after the inaugural service landed. They’ll expand to seven again only from Dec. 10 until mid January for the busy Christmas and New Year travel period.

The truncated schedule -- which means Emirates will need to rebook or refund passengers with tickets for flights that will no longer operate -- has also been dictated by the shutdown of a runway at Dubai International airport next spring for upgrade work, Hubert Frach, the company’s head of commercial operations for the Americas and Europe, said in an interview.

“It’s temporary,” Frach said of the service cuts. “You have to match so many things. Fleet availability, operational requirements. Even cockpit crew, cabin crew availability and aircraft type can mean that you have to reshuffle.” He added that there’s no longer an actual shortage of pilots after Tim Clark, the carrier’s president, identified a shortfall of 100 to 150 cockpit crew in April.

Edinburgh, which Emirates is serving with Boeing Co. 777 jets seating 354 people, isn’t being singled out for reduced frequencies, Frach said, with adjustments becoming more common as Emirates seeks maximum “agility.”

That’s necessary because the carrier’s transfer-hub strategy -- which focuses mainly on connecting globe-trotting passengers rather than those traveling to Dubai -- exposes it to a uniquely variable marketplace, he said.

All the same the Scottish city will be anxious to consolidate the new link after working to attract Emirates for a decade after near neighbor Glasgow secured a double-daily service. Qatar Airways also operates to Edinburgh but Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has ended its service as it struggles to halt losses.

Frach said he’s confident demand can sustain flights from both Scottish airports, adding that he has few concerns about the impact of Britain quitting the European Union next March.

“For us it’s pretty much business as usual,” he said. “ We believe in the market.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.