🎶 Weather-wise, it's such a lovely day You just say the words and we'll beat the birds Down to Acapulco Bay It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say Come fly with me, let's fly let's fly Pack up let's fly away...🎶
-Frank Sinatra, Come Fly with Me
This week we take flight- virtually that is- from Edinburgh Airport. For those of us fortunate to travel, there is something magical about travelling through airports looking for the next adventure. I know that it has been difficult lately with the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we thought that it would be fun to set out on a ‘virtual journey’ and explore our local airport here in Edinburgh. Hopefully, this article will provide some interesting background as well as a bit of helpful information for those flying in or out of Edinburgh. Please keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting various aspects of operation at Edinburgh Airport. Therefore, be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date information.
Edinburgh Airport has been in existence for over a century- since 2 March 1916. Originally known as Turnhouse Aerodrome, it started out as a Royal Naval Air Service and was an important military base during WWI. Sawyer is pictured below with a plane from the 603 Squadron.
The airport began offering civilian flights and services in 1947. In 1971, the British Airports Authority (BAA) took ownership and set out making plans to build a new terminal and runway. The terminal we see today was designed by Sir Robert Matthew and was officially opened in 1977. RAF Turnhouse- which operated next to the civilian airport- was officially closed in 1997.
There have been many additions and expansions to the airport since the 1977 renovation. Notably, in 2004, a multi-storey car park was built, and a new air traffic control tower was built in 2005. We personally think that the ‘new’ tower (standing at 57 metres or 187 feet) adds a lovely aesthetic to the airport. Each night it is lit up, often in special colours to honour important days or causes. For example, it’s been red for Remembrance Day and blue in tribute to the NHS staff. However, our favourite is it’s ‘regular’ purple colour. Of course, we might be a bit bias as Wee Walking Tours’ colours are purple and gold 😉!
A New Era: Recent Renovations & Expansion
In 2012, BAA sold Edinburgh Airport to Global Infrastructure Partners- one of the world’s largest infrastructure investors based in New York City. Since that change in ownership, further expansions and renovations have been undertaken. This is because the number of passengers travelling through Edinburgh Airport has been on the rise the past few decades- especially in the past several years (they had approximately 14 million passengers in 2018). Therefore, the Airport facilities needed expansion to handle the enormous growth. In 2019, Edinburgh Airport officially opened their £75 million terminal expansion (TEX). That expansion included improvements on departure lounge capacity and gates that could handle larger aircraft. It also included additional retail, food, and beverage outlets.
A further £350 million to invest in infrastructure over the next five years was announced prior to the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is uncertain the impact that situation will have on infrastructure plans moving forward. Nevertheless, while Edinburgh Airport may be small compared to others, it has achieved phenomenal success in creating a world-class airport. In fact, travellers now have access to over 150 destinations from Edinburgh Airport!
Getting to the city centre from Edinburgh Airport (and vice versa) is quite convenient. Back in February, Wee Walking Tours’ Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer, demonstrated just how easy it is to get to the Airport from Edinburgh city centre- on the Edinburgh Tram! Sawyer and Sami (our human tour guide) got on the tram on Princes Street in the city centre and rode it all the way to Edinburgh Airport. The tram is quite affordable (the current price for an Adult Open Return ticket is £9), accessible, and a handy option. It’s also perfect option for locals looking to save on parking fees. I must admit is nice to be able to just head straight to the Airport and not have to worry about traffic or parking.
Another convenient public transportation option is to take one of the Lothian Bus services. The Airlink 100 is the express bus to and from the city centre. However, you can also use one of the Skylink bus services- 200, 300, or 400- depending on which part of Edinburgh you are going to or coming from. Please check the Lothian Buses website for the most up to date information regarding timetables, routes, and other travel information. Sawyer and Sami normally use Lothian Buses for their everyday commute into the city, and highly recommend them to others looking to get around Edinburgh in a relatively inexpensive and convenient way.
Of course, there are also the usual options of getting a taxi or car hire (rental) as well as driving your own vehicle. Regardless, of your chosen mode of transportation, please check the Airport’s website for more detailed information on available options.
Related to transportation, there are also several conveniently located hotels within walking distance of the terminal. This link to the Airport website offers more information.
Food, Shops, & Incredible Service
While our main purpose of going to the airport is to help us get to our destinations, we often have time to catch a quick bite to eat, do a bit of shopping, and sometimes even relax. Rest assured, Edinburgh Airport has you covered in all these departments. Whether you are looking for a high-end fragrance, whisky, or Scottish souvenirs, the shopping possibilities are plentiful. Regarding food or drink, there are some delicious takeaway and sit-down options. Pret a Manger offers a great assortment of sandwiches, soups, salads, and more. One of the ‘new kids on the block’ at Edinburgh Airport, Brew Dog, has (according to their airport webpage) 16 taps of craft beer as well as “a specially developed breakfast menu and a lunch menu which features loaded hot sandwiches, salads and all-day breakfast”.
For those in search of a bit more of a luxurious airport experience, there are three different lounge options that provide the ability to get some ‘peace and quiet before take-off’. All lounges are for an extra fee and require booking (they are currently closed due COVID-19). You can check the airport webpage on lounges for more information.
On a more personal note, I would like to highlight the fantastic service that Edinburgh Airport staff consistently provide. Some years ago, when I came to Edinburgh for a job interview, it was my first time flying into the country. And, let me tell you, what an airport welcome I received! Understandably, I was quite nervous as I was thinking about the interview. However, the airport staff were so kind and lovely, it helped me to forget about my stress as I navigated the terminal. In particular, there was one wonderful woman who I will never forget as she was the epitome of Scottish hospitality. Not only did she say 'welcome to Scotland', but she engaged with me in a meaningful conversation. We discussed why I was there, she kindly gave me some advise, and said goodbye with a sweet, 'good luck dear'. That is the kind of excellent experience that we experience each time we go to Edinburgh Airport and we appreciate their superb service.
Special Assistance at Edinburgh Airport
We’ve touched on the importance of inclusivity for travellers/guests in previous articles, and we are pleased to say that Edinburgh Airport provides many services to help those with a variety of needs. For example, People with Reduced Mobility (PRM) may request assistance while within the airport. Please note that there is a Reserved Seating Area/ Mobility Assistance Reception Desk located just outside the Domestic Arrivals doors opposite the AirLink 100 bus stance. Travellers with hidden disabilities are also given support when requested. Edinburgh Airport states that it can, “offer you a special lanyard or pin to wear on your journey through our airport. This will identify you to staff as someone who may need additional support or understanding whilst you are travelling through our airport. Our staff have been specially trained to recognise the lanyards and act accordingly”. Lanyards or pins can be picked up at the Assistance Reception Desk. Be sure to head over to the Special Assistance Airport webpage for more detailed information on the services available.
I hope you have enjoyed our brief trip to Edinburgh Airport. The expansion and renovations they’ve undertaken are quite tremendous, and we look forward to future improvements. As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, the COVID-19 crisis is currently having an impact on operations at Edinburgh Airport. Therefore, be sure to check their website when planning your trip.
Additionally, when visiting our lovely capital city, please check out our Edinburgh walking tours. Sami and Sawyer would love to help you continue your travel adventure!
Until next time- Explore & Discover!