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Hop in our EDI time machine: Airport hits fast forward with 16 years of growth in four months

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There can be no doubting we've come a long way in four months.

2022 started off shrouded in uncertainty. Omicron was the word on everyone's lips, and we didn't quite know how significant an impact the variant would have, or for how long it would be around for.

With restrictions around international travel firmly in place, passenger numbers remained low in the opening weeks of the year. There was a strange silence around our terminal in-keeping with what we saw throughout much of 2020 and 2021. Quite frankly, many people were reluctant to leave the house, never mind board a plane and leave the country.

Thankfully things started to improve - and quickly. As restrictions were relaxed we saw more and more people thinking about travel again, and returning to the airport.

While this is something we all wanted to happen it did, and continues to, bring challenges like we've never seen before. The almost sudden spike in passenger numbers, and the unpredictable environment in which this happened, meant we had to react quickly to meet this demand.

What we saw throughout April is a far cry from what we saw in January, in fact such rapid growth took us 16 years to achieve in pre-pandemic times.

The last time we had a month like January 2022...

We're going back quite a while, before the millennium in fact, to find the last time we had a month resembling January of this year. A quick whizz through our time machine reveals that footfall was in fact at 1999 levels as we kicked off 2022.

Things did begin to improve as the month went on, and the green shoots of recovery were certainly visible, however a look at life in '99 amplifies just how far from normal things were as we started off the year. Think Backstreet Boys, Sega's Dreamcast and Toy Story 2...

So what happened the last time we had a January '22 month?

  • The Backstreet Boys were at the height of their fame, and took over radio airwaves everywhere with I Want It That Way.

  • Sega brought out their new games console The Dreamcast. Nowadays these are considered 'retro'. A scary thought.

  • The Scottish Parliament was officially opened by the Queen.

  • Much-loved kids show SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on Nickelodeon and went on soak up plenty of praise.

  • The Euro currency was introduced in 11 different countries.

  • Manchester United won the Champions League in Barcelona, defeating Bayern Munich with two late goals in an epic final.

  • Movie fans flocked to the cinema to watch Toy Story 2. The Matrix, The Green Mile, and Notting Hill were also released in this year.

January 2022 passenger numbers

Domestic passengers: 141,996

International passengers: 175,015

Overall: 317,011

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The last time we had a month like April 2022...

While not quite back to 2019 levels, April was looking a lot more like what we've been used to in recent times.

The airport was busier than we'd seen since pre-pandemic times as many people took that long-awaited holiday, and set foot back in an airport for the first time in two years.

With things a lot closer to 'normal' you only need to go back seven years to find the last time we saw a similar month.

Here's a look at some of the things we saw happen in 2015.

  • Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars was one of the biggest songs of the year, spending 14 weeks at number one.

  • The latest James Bond movie Spectre was among the biggest movies of the year. Jurassic World and The Marian were also big hits at the box office.

  • A photograph of a dress went viral online, and led to heated discussions in households and offices everywhere. Why? Because people couldn't decide whether it was blue and white or black and gold...

  • Andy Murray played an incredible lob to defeat Belgium's David Goffin and help Great Britain win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936.

  • Zayn Malik announced he was quitting One Direction much to the dismay of legions of heartbroken 'Directioners'.

April 2022 passenger numbers

Domestic passengers: 257,043

International passengers: 674,479

Overall: 931,522

Check out your check-in desk opening times at Edinburgh Airport

So what does this tell us?

Growth that took us 16 years to achieve in normal conditions happened in the space of four months at the start of this year.

Almost one million people travelled through Edinburgh Airport during April, marking the terminal’s busiest period since summer 2019.

We saw a total of 931,522 passengers as many people took their first trip the pandemic began, reunite with loved ones and enjoy a well-earned holiday.

It marks a significant improvement in the aviation sector, with numbers continuing to rise rapidly.

We previously warned about the potential for queues due to the surge in demand and recruitment challenges, and passengers and staff worked together to help the operation go as smoothly as possible in almost all areas.

  • 97.1% of passengers passed through security in under 15 minutes

  • 90.3% of passengers passed through security in under 10 minutes

  • More than 100 airport staff signed up to the Here To Help scheme which sees people from all areas of the business helping in security, check-in and other areas of the terminal during peak periods

  • Increase in overtime rates and continuing onboarding of new recruits

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Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport said:

“It was brilliant to welcome passengers back to the airport and see so many happy faces as people set off to reunite with family and friends, take long awaited honeymoons and family holidays or just enjoy some time to themselves - these big days have been missing for far too long.

“It was of course a challenging few weeks and we are quite happy with the way the airport operation performed as it saw its busiest period in almost three years. A big thank you must go to our workforce and others across the campus who welcomed and greeted that challenge with gusto, and to our passengers who worked with us to prepare for their trip and showed patience and understanding throughout.

“As ever there are lessons we can learn and improvements we can make as we head into the even busier summer season. We would like to remind passengers that we will face some challenges and again ask them to continue to work with us by planning ahead and ensuring they know what they need to do before they get here, and we will continue to do everything we can to get through the airport quickly and comfortably.”