Q: Has Ryanair now stopped flying between Edinburgh and London? I am no longer able to find these flights on the booking page. Have we done something to upset Michael O'Leary?
Ryanair will fly you from Edinburgh to dozens of destinations. Yet even though Europe's biggest no-frills airline has big operations based at London's three low-cost airports – Gatwick, Luton and Stansted – it has never flown between the Scottish and English capitals. Why not? Because easyJet already flies between Edinburgh and that trio of airports. And the experience of the past 15 years demonstrates that low-cost airlines rarely compete directly between one airport and another.
Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, is not averse to a scrap with Britain's biggest airline, easyJet, but only when he feels his turf is being invaded. When easyJet decided, six years ago, to launch flights from Gatwick to Ireland, Ryanair duplicated the routes, halved the fares and travellers cashed in until easyJet retired hurt. A similar battle ensued between Scotland and Northern Ireland when BA's low-cost start-up, Go, tackled easyJet from Belfast to Edinburgh and Glasgow. For many months, hardly anyone paid more than a fiver each way. The madness ended only when easyJet bought Go. Most of the time there is an uneasy coexistence: between Glasgow and Stansted, for example, easyJet flies from "real" Glasgow, while Ryanair operates from remote Prestwick.
The Edinburgh-London route enjoys plenty of terrestrial competition, too, with overnight train prices starting at £19 for Caledonian Sleepers, and bargains on Megabus and Greyhound coach services. And from May 22 – when East Coast Trains improves its timetable, at least for major stations – there will be even less reason to take the plane. A new early departure, branded the Flying Scotsman, leaves the Scottish capital at 5.40am, stops only at Newcastle and takes four hours to reach King's Cross. Going north, the last train from London leaves an hour later, at 7pm.