The number of passengers using Barra Airport increased more than 10 per cent in 2014 compared to the year before.
New figures released by Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) noted that 10,560 passengers had passed through the island airport in 2014 compared to 9,474 in 2013 - a rise of 11.5 per cent.
There was also a five per cent increase at Stornoway Airport with 133,094 in 2014 compared to 126,586 in 2013. Benbecula numbers rose by 1.7 per cent rising from 32,805 in 2013 to 33,367 in 2014.
A record 1.4 million air passengers passed through HIAL’s 11 airports, almost 52,000 more than in 2013, representing a 3.8 per cent increase.
HIAL’s busiest airport, Inverness, recorded its best year since 2008 with 628,526 passengers, up by 1.7 per cent on the previous year, largely as a result of growing demand on the Manchester and Amsterdam services, which are increasingly popular alternative hubs to London, and the launch of a new route to Dublin, which offers seamless connections to the United States and Canada. Latest figures show passenger numbers on the Amsterdam route up 14%, while the number of passengers using Manchester has soared by 32% over the past year.
Sumburgh confirmed its status as Scotland’s fastest growing major airport with an 18.2 per cent rise in passenger numbers to 319,597. The airport is about to undergo further investment after Transport Minister Derek Mackay gave the go ahead for funding for the second phase of the airport’s redevelopment.
There was particularly strong growth for the HIAL group in the last quarter of 2014, with a 10.4 per cent increase in passenger numbers from October-December. Inverness Airport gained almost 19,000 passengers during the quarter, while Sumburgh posted almost 11,000 additional travellers.
Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of HIAL, said: “We are delighted with performance of the group as a whole, particularly at Sumburgh and Barra, which have been our fastest growing airports. The success of these two airports underline the importance of aviation for business and tourism in our island communities.
“After a sluggish start to the year, Inverness ended 2014 on a high, gaining an additional 19,000 passengers in the last quarter. Notwithstanding Flybe’s disappointing decision to cancel the London City service, these figures bode well for 2015. We are absolutely delighted by the growing demand for hub connections via Manchester, Amsterdam and Dublin. In the absence of a Heathrow link, these airports are proving increasingly popular hubs for long haul flights to the Gulf, the Far East and North America.
“On the face of it, 2014 looks like a slow year for Wick John O’Groats. In actual fact, the airport recorded one of its best ever years. Compared to 2013, when the airport enjoyed unprecedented growth, last year was generally in line with our forecasts and ahead of 2012.
“However, it is a reminder that we cannot be overly reliant on the energy sector for new business and this is a lesson that also applies to Sumburgh. The fall in oil prices and moves by the oil firms to curtail future investment will inevitably impact on passenger numbers at Sumburgh. Our focus for the future is to ensure that Sumburgh remains the airport of choice for the energy sector while seeking out new business opportunities. That is why the recent decision by the Scottish Government to redevelop the airport is such good news for Sumburgh Airport and the local community.”