REGIONAL airports operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has had a record-breaking year with a 15.4 per cent increase in passenger numbers at its 11 airports across Scotland.

The figures show a total of 1,658,423 customers used HIAL airports in the last 12 months, an increase of 220,798 passengers on the 2015/16 total of 1,437,625.

Hial operates 11 sites in the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Argyll, as well as Dundee Airport.

Loading article content

Inverness Airport saw a 23.5 per cent rise in passenger numbers, 14 per cent more people used Sumburgh and two-thirds more used Dundee. The world-famous beach runway at Barra was used by 16 per cent more passengers over the 12 months. The popularity of Inverness and its role as a driver for the Highland economy was illustrated by the 829,018 passengers that used it.

Growth in the Highland capital was also spurred by its Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol flights.

British Airways and its Oneworld partnership operates the Inverness-Heathrow route, with Dutch operator KLM and its SkyTeam partners run the Schiphol service.

Sumburgh welcomed 355,667 passengers, with regular flights supporting the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic, while Dundee’s numbers grew to 38,700. Strong tourist demand from Glasgow to Barra, Islay and Tiree saw increases at these airports, with Barra attracting 13,552 passengers in its 80th anniversary year.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Overall, the past year has been one of significant growth in passenger figures across the HIAL group, illustrating customer demand for our air services and the improved connectivity they provide for communities.

“Our regional airports continue to play a key role, enhancing and supporting Scotland’s economy and offering great choice for leisure and business passengers. 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 the levels of growth witnessed in the last financial year in the future.”

Fewer passengers were recorded at Wick John O’Groats, Campbeltown and Benbecula.