Passenger numbers up at some of Scotland's smallest airports

The operator of some of Scotland's smallest airports has reported its passenger numbers rose to a new record level in 2016.

The landing strip on Barra is washed by the tide twice a day and is the only beach airport in the world to handle scheduled flights. Picture: Allan Milligan
The landing strip on Barra is washed by the tide twice a day and is the only beach airport in the world to handle scheduled flights. Picture: Allan Milligan

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial), which operates sites across the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and Dundee, said it handled a total of 1,606,168 travellers during 2016 - a rise of 10.6 per cent.

Connections to airports in London and continental Europe helped Inverness, its busiest airport, achieve a figure of 796,854 passengers in 2016 - up 118,171 in a year.

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But passenger numbers fell at Wick John O’Groats and Stornoway, largely because of decreased demand from energy sector employees.

Hial also operates the famous ‘beach airport’ on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebridies - the world’s only beach runway used for scheduled flights.

“For local residents, our island airports play a crucial role, enabling regular and reliable access to the mainland,” said HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon.

“The transport hubs are vital to the social and economic welfare of the areas they operate in, allowing individuals to stay connected.

“We provide more than just passenger transit to and from the islands.

“The airports are key to delivering essential public services, from mail deliveries and air ambulance flights, to search and rescue services and offshore crew transit.

“The teams at these airports work extremely hard, year-round, dealing with unpredictable weather conditions and opening out of hours for emergency access, while also playing a significant role in Scottish tourism.

“Barra’s iconic beach landing, in particular, attracts a great deal of attention from visitors around the world and as a result, the airport is welcoming more and more passengers every year.”