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%.
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 contributed to its success.
British Airways and its Oneworld partnership operates the Inverness-Heathrow route, with Dutch operator KLM and its SkyTeam partners operating the flight from Inverness to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
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.
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.
Dundee Airport published exemplary growth figures for 2016, with an additional 15,982 passengers opting to fly from the Tayside airport to destinations in mainland Europe and the UK – an increase of 69.6% on 2015’s passenger figures. An announcement on the 2017 London route is due shortly.
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.”
Passenger numbers declined at Wick John O’Groats and Stornoway due to reduced demand from energy sector services to-and-from Aberdeen. Campbeltown recorded a narrow fall in annual passenger numbers of 1.1%.
Strong demand on the Glasgow-Islay route was largely responsible for a 2.9% increase in passenger numbers to the island airport, with Kirkwall also logging an identical year-on-year growth percentage for 2016.
Benbecula Airport also benefited from its connecting flights to and from Scotland’s largest city, with a modest increase of 33 passengers (0.1%) recorded by the end of the year.