The latest record breaking figures show an increase of 55,934 passengers compared to the same quarter in 2016 – up by 13.3%.
Highlights include a 17.6% increase at Inverness Airport, an 18% rise in passengers at Barra and 26.4% growth in numbers at Islay, thanks to an additional daily service from Glasgow which began in April.
The figures at Inverness Airport reached 246,965 for the quarter, further illustrating the airport’s popularity and increasingly important role as a driver for the Highland region and economy. More than 36,900 passengers used the airport, compared to the figures for the same period in 2016, due to increased numbers on the Heathrow, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Gatwick and Luton routes.
In May 2017, Dutch operator KLM, increased the frequency of its flights from Inverness to Amsterdam from one to two per day. The additional flight provides an early morning departure time that offers increased options for Highland travellers to connect via Schiphol to the rest of the world.
Sumburgh Airport welcomed 100,623 passengers during the period - 15% more than in 2016, with further evidence of growth in the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic, while Kirkwall’s numbers grew to 53,797 as a direct result of the new weekly service to Bergen, Norway.
Strong tourist demand on flights from Glasgow to Barra, Benbecula, Stornoway and Tiree saw increases in passenger numbers at these airports, with growth in numbers travelling to the islands during the Easter holiday period in April.
Robust figures were recorded at nine of the organisation’s 11 airports across Scotland.
HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon said: “We are pleased to report that the overall passenger numbers continue to rise. This clearly illustrates the value of our services to the communities we serve and proves there is strong demand for ever greater connectivity to and from the Highlands and Islands.
“Our regional airports continue to play a key role, enhancing and supporting Scotland’s economy and offering great choice for both business and leisure passengers, particularly during the holiday season.
“Our commitment is to continue to invest in our airports, and further develop our customer service as we attract new business and look to build upon these levels of growth.”
SCDI Highlands & Islands Director, Fraser Grieve, welcomed the new figures and commented: “Tourist attractions and accommodation providers in the Highlands and Islands have seen an increasing number of visitors, and businesses are finding it easier to reach international destinations, thanks to the continued growth of connections through Inverness Airport.
“The increase in passenger numbers shows the difference that having access to Heathrow and improved services to Amsterdam offers, and I hope we’ll continue to see rising numbers to support these key air routes.”
Passenger numbers declined at Dundee (-29.8%) as a result of the withdrawal of the Flybe Amsterdam service by the operator in December 2016. Compared to 2016, the airport had 2,690 fewer passengers during the period. Figures also decreased at Wick John O’Groats (-20%), due in part to reduced demand from energy sector services to-and-from Aberdeen.