Record year for Highlands and Islands Airports

Barra Airport

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) recorded a 15.4% increase in passenger numbers — reaching a record breaking 1,658,423 customers — at its 11 airports across Scotland in the financial year to March, 2017.

That was an increase of 220,798 passengers on the 2015-16 total of 1,437,625.

There was 23.5% growth at Inverness Airport, a 14% increase at Sumburgh, 64% additional customers at Dundee, and 16% more passengers at Barra.

HIAL is headquartered in Inverness and employs about 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.

The Inverness figures reached 829,018 for the financial year, “further illustrating the airport’s popularity and increasingly important role as a driver for the Highland region and economy,” said HIAL.

“In addition to growth as a result of the airport’s Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol flights, all major routes from the city welcomed additional passengers.

“British Airways and its Oneworld partnership operates the Inverness-Heathrow route, with Dutch operator KLM and its SkyTeam partners operating the flight from Inverness to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.”

Sumburgh had 355,667 passengers during the period with regular scheduled flights supporting the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic, while Dundee’s numbers grew to 38,700.

Strong tourist demand on flights from Glasgow to Barra, Islay and Tiree saw increases in passenger numbers at these airports, with Barra attracting 13,552 passengers in its 80th anniversary year.

Robust growth was observed at eight of the organisation’s 11 airports.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Overall, the past year has been one of significant growth in passenger figures across the HIAL group, illustrating customer demand for our air services and the improved connectivity they provide for communities.

“Our regional airports continue to play a key role, enhancing and supporting Scotland’s economy and offering great choice for leisure and business passengers.

“Our commitment is to continue to invest in our airports, and further develop our customer service as we attract new business and look to build upon the levels of growth witnessed in the last financial year in the future.”

Passenger numbers declined at Wick John O’Groats (-14.8%) due in part to reduced demand for energy sector services to Aberdeen, while Campbeltown (-3.6%) and Benbecula (-0.4%) also recorded narrow percentage falls in their passenger numbers.

Both Kirkwall and Stornoway airports logged a 1% year-on-year growth figure.