Highland and Islands airports record busiest year

Highland and Islands airports recorded their busiest year, with most of the airports showing increases in passenger numbers. Picture: TSPL
Highland and Islands airports recorded their busiest year, with most of the airports showing increases in passenger numbers. Picture: TSPL
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Airports in parts of the Highlands and islands have recorded their busiest ever year.

Passenger numbers grew 5.4% to more than 1.3 million in the 12 months to April.

Sumburgh Airport on Shetland led the growth, with an increase in oil and gas industry traffic boosting traveller numbers by 32.2%.

Wick John O’Groats Airport also had a busy year, recording a 21.7% rise in passengers.

Airports operator Hial (Highland and Islands Airports Ltd) attributed the increase to extra services to and from Edinburgh and growth in fixed-wing and helicopter operations.

Overall Hial’s 11 airports handled an additional 69,666 passengers last year, taking the total to 1,367,342.

Numbers were up 8.3% at Kirkwall Airport on the Orkney Islands, 2% on Islay in the Inner Hebrides, and Inverness saw a 1.3% rise in passengers.

Some of the operator’s smaller airports - Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides - reported a drop in numbers as a result of schedule changes and reduced capacity on some routes.

Campbeltown Airport in Argyll & Bute and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides also experienced a dip in passenger numbers.

Dundee was affected by a reduction in services to London City but a new twice-daily weekday service to London Stansted was launched last month, Inverness-based Hial said.

Managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Last year was our best ever in passenger terms, with the group exceeding the 1.3 million mark for the first time. We owe much of this success to Hial’s capacity to attract new energy-related business, particularly at Wick John O’Groats and Sumburgh. We are confident that both airports can continue to attract new business.

“Kirkwall was another strong performer, attracting an extra 13,000 passengers through the year. Although growth at Inverness was more modest, 2013/14 was its busiest year in five years and we are hopeful that we can secure further growth from Flybe and easyJet at Inverness.

“The picture is less encouraging at some of our smaller airports, such as Barra and Benbecula, where changes to the inter-island schedule have had a significant impact on passenger numbers. These airports nevertheless play a vital social and economic role in the communities they serve and we will continue to seek new opportunities to enhance connectivity to the islands.

“We have worked hard to secure a new London service for Dundee, following the withdrawal of CityJet, and we are working closely with Transport Scotland, Dundee City Council and other partners to secure new business for the airport.”