Highlands and Islands Airports boom continues

Lorna Jack

Scottish regional airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) said Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, will become its interim chair as it reported increases in turnover and passenger numbers for the 2016-17 financial year.

Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf said: “Lorna has been an invaluable member of the HIAL Board since 2014, and she is the perfect candidate to step into this role and help guide the company over the coming months.

“The process to find a permanent chair is already underway and we will look to make that appointment as soon as we can.”

The private limited company, owned by the Scottish Ministers and responsible for 11 airports across the Highlands and Islands, boosted turnover to £21.4 million, increased passenger numbers by 15.4% to 1.6 million, and cut losses from £3.38 million in 2015-16 to just £8,000 for the same period in 2016-17.

The figures highlighted continued investment of £16 million across the group’s airports at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.

HIAL chief executive Inglis Lyon said: “Working with stakeholders, we are committed to supporting the essential socio-economic role of aviation in Scotland through the maintenance and development of our airports, many of which provide important jobs and support in fragile economic areas.

“However, whilst we are delighted with the progress being made, the HIAL board and our partners must take advantage of this positive position by finding additional funding from which to further invest in our facilities and services and ensure the growth trend continues to be upwards.

“Connectivity remains key to the success of the Scottish, as well as the Highland and Islands economy, and for HIAL, it is at the forefront of everything we do.

“Over the last year we witnessed significant improvements both in business and tourism traffic, with new and additional flights to some of Europe’s busiest transport hubs, meaning the region is better connected by air than ever before.”

In recent years HIAL has placed significant focus on developing new routes with the various airports’ offering improved significantly, with new routes to Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow, Norway’s Bergen from Kirkwall, as well as a first flight from Inverness to Palma, Majorca.

“These new links mean the airports are now better connected than ever,” added Lyon.

“With Highland links to two of the world’s busiest aviation hubs at London and Schiphol, passengers have quick and easy access to global transfers taking them to the rest of the world.

“Further development and improvement in connectivity for the Highlands is not only good for tourism, but crucial to attract new inward investment and enhanced business opportunities.

“Ultimately, better access will lead growth and help the region to prosper.

“Recent figures we have suggest that in one year Inverness airport contributed directly to a £75 million boost for the Highland economy from increased visitor numbers.

“In addition, we have also placed additional emphasis on creating an even more efficient organisation, with a strong focus on reducing overheads.

“As a publicly owned company, everyone at HIAL is aware of the need to deliver positive results and exceptional value for money for the taxpayer.

“HIAL operates within a tight budgetary framework.

“This means we must continue to achieve economies of scale where possible, managing costs without compromising safety in any way.

“The organisation must continue to be innovative and adaptive, seeking new business opportunities wherever possible.”