Record number of people flew to Scotland’s Highlands and islands

Sumburgh Airport. Picture: TSPL
Sumburgh Airport. Picture: TSPL
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A record number of people flew to some of Scotland’s most far-flung destinations, according to the latest figures from one of Scotland’s airport operators.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) reported a total of nearly two million passengers – with 1,722,913 journeys made during 2017.

The group, a public corporation wholly owned by Scottish ministers, operates and manages 11 airports at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Islay, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.

The 2017 figures show numbers were up 102,577 on 2016’s total of 1,620,336 people who used the company’s airports across Scotland, an increase of 6.3 per cent.

Highlights include a 6.3 per cent increase at Inverness and an 18.9 per cent jump in passenger numbers at the world-renowned Barra Airport which had 14,264 passengers using its beach runway in 2017.

Sumburgh, which serves the Shetlands and the North Sea oil and gas industry, recorded a rise of 13.9 per cent to 386,039 – up 46,948 – continuing the growth it has enjoyed since HIAL refurbished the airport and provided enhanced facilities for offshore workers.

Orkney’s Kirkwall Airport saw passenger numbers up by 9.2 per cent to 195,544 from 179,140 in 2016 and Stornoway also saw increased demand, with passenger numbers up 4 per cent to 137,103. Tiree, Campbeltown, Benbecula and Islay all reported increases year-on-year.

Inglis Lyon, HIAL managing director, said the figures demonstrated the growing demand for regional airport services.

Mr Lyon said: “These figures indicate a positive economic outlook for the regions. This illustrates the continuing need for strategic investment across the HIAL operating area. We are working with our colleagues in Transport Scotland to deliver a regional airports network that can grow passenger numbers and has long-term sustainability.”

Mr Lyon said an anticipated increase in international visitors to Scotland in 2018 could see the growth continue.

“The UK is a very attractive destination for visitors benefiting from favourable exchange rates. With the number of connecting flights growing, it means they are ­better able to arrive in the Highlands and islands, spend less time travelling and more time enjoying the stunning natural beauty and hospitality of Scotland.”