Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) said passenger numbers rose 10.6% to a record 1,606,168 travellers at its 11 airports across Scotland in 2016.
HIAL is headquartered in Inverness and employs 600 people at Campbeltown, Islay, Tiree, Barra, Benbecula, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Wick John O’Groats, Inverness and Dundee airports.
HIAL is a public corporation owned by the Scottish Ministers. Its airports are deemed vital to the social and economic welfare of the areas they serve, but are loss making and are supported by subsidies from the Scottish Government.
Inverness Airport illustrated its role to the Highland economy as its passenger numbers rose 17.4% to 796,854.
The growth at Inverness was thanks in part to European routes to Geneva, Zurich and Dublin and increased traffic to UK airports including Manchester.
Greater connectivity for Inverness to hub airports including London Heathrow and Schiphol, Amsterdam contributed to its success.
Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands saw an extra 19,186 passengers last year due to regular scheduled flights supporting the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic using the airport.
Passenger numbers at Barra Airport increase by 19.1%, while Tiree Airport recorded a rise of 18.6%.
Dundee Airport had an additional 15,982 passengers choosing to fly directly from Tayside to mainland Europe and the UK — an increase of 69.6%.
An announcement on Dundee’s new London service is expected soon.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We are delighted to report that the overall passenger numbers continue to rise.
“This clearly illustrates the value of our services to the communities they serve and proves there is strong demand for ever greater connectivity to and from the Highlands and Islands.
“Our regional airports have a key role to play in strengthening Scotland’s economy and offering great choice for leisure and business passengers.
“We will continue to invest in our airports, work in partnership with the airlines and destination airports, and further develop our customer service as we attract new business and look to cement our growth in the future.”
Passenger numbers declined at Wick John O’Groats and Stornoway due to reduced demand from energy sector services to and from Aberdeen.
Campbeltown recorded a decline of 1.1%.
Strong demand on the Glasgow-Islay route was largely responsible for a 2.9% increase in passenger numbers to the island airport, with Kirkwall recording similar growth.
Benbecula Airport also benefited from its Glasgow connection with a modest increase of 0.1%.