Outstanding year for passenger numbers

Overall the news is good, but passenger numbers have fallen at Stornoway.
Overall the news is good, but passenger numbers have fallen at Stornoway.

Regional airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has reported record passenger numbers at its 11 airports across Scotland in 2016.

The latest figures show a total of 1,606,168 travellers used HIAL airports during 2016, an increase of 154,375 passengers on the 2015 total of 1,451,792 passengers - an increase of 10.6%.

Barra Airport, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in summer 2016, saw passenger numbers increase by nearly a fifth (19.1%) for the year, while Tiree Airport also recorded a hike of 18.6% in additional passengers, both due to additional rotations to these popular holiday destinations.

There was also a modest increase for Benbecula airport, which benefited from its connecting flights, with an increase of 33 passengers (0.1%) recorded.

Inverness Airport further illustrated its popularity and increasingly important role to the Highland region and economy by welcoming 796,854 passengers in 2016, a 17.4% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers from 2015, when it had 678,683 passengers – an increase of 118,171 passengers, thanks in part to continued interest in European routes to Geneva, Zurich and Dublin and increased traffic to UK airports such as Manchester.

Greater connectivity to hub airports including London Heathrow and Schiphol, Amsterdam also contributed to its success.

Robust growth was observed at eight of the organisation’s 11 airports across Scotland, Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands saw an additional 19,186 passengers, due to regular scheduled flights supporting the oil and gas sector, and an increase in offshore traffic using the airport.

However passenger numbers declined at Wick John O’Groats and Stornoway due to reduced demand from energy sector services to-and-from Aberdeen.

Campbeltown also recorded a narrow fall in annual passenger numbers of 1.1%.

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.”