Highlands and Islands Airports Limited reports strong summer demand as passenger number surpass 900,000 for first time

HIAL-Hebrides-TodayRegional Scottish airport operator, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), saw passenger numbers rise above 900,000 for the first time over the first two quarters with a record amount of travellers using its services.

During the first half of the financial year beginning in April 2016 until September 2016, 908,116 used HIAL airports, up by 111,750 on the same period last year when 796,366 passengers used the airports. Inverness Airport, where HIAL is headquartered, has reported “outstanding” performances on its new airline services connecting the Highland capital to London and Amsterdam.

Passenger numbers at Inverness from April-September were 456,778 compared with 376,092 for the same period last year – up 21% (80,686). 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 both of these routes delivering connecting passengers from the USA and Europe. A new connection to Geneva Airport is scheduled to begin in December with easyJet.

Dundee Airport has seen a near doubling in passenger traffic with numbers increasing to 24,466 in 2016, compared with 12,791 for the same period last year. The Tayside airport launched a new Flybe service to Amsterdam Schiphol in May, with growth on the London Stansted route also attracting additional customers.

At Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands – a key terminal that serves the offshore oil and gas industry in addition to scheduled passengers – passenger numbers were up 11% (19,281) to 189,526 for the first and second quarters of 2016/17. Aircraft traffic movements increased by 27% compared to last year.

HIAL chair Dr Mike Cantlay said the new Inverness routes were helping attract thousands of extra visitors to the North and were also allowing business to develop stronger links and get closer to new markets.

Dr Cantlay said: “Passenger figures for the summer season have been extremely robust.” “Inverness is now better connected than ever to two key airline networks – Oneworld and SkyTeam – with an impressive 40 to 50 per cent of passengers connecting through Amsterdam and Heathrow to and from international destinations,” said Dr Cantlay. Combined traffic to and through London to Inverness in July was up 65%. HIAL believes this demonstrates the level of latent demand, particularly from internationally connecting traffic.

HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon, said: “Inverness Airport is up 21% in the year to date, which we believe is one of the strongest performances of any European airport.

The initial BA flight numbers are encouraging and are further evidence of the significance of Heathrow as a UK hub for Scotland. “The ability to fly direct to two of the world’s greatest airports enables people in the Highlands to make international connecting flights quicker and more efficiently than ever before.

These services offer tremendous opportunities for tourism and for business throughout the region.” At Stornoway additional demand over the holiday period boosted passenger numbers travelling to and from Glasgow resulting in a growth in demand. Ongoing strong support of the public meant that figures grew at Tiree & Barra where passenger figures grew over the summer.

A downturn in scheduled movements to Aberdeen resulted in a drop in passengers at Wick. Cancellations due to weather played a part in reduction in passengers at Benbecula and Campbeltown. A reduction in the number of scheduled flights from last year saw a drop in Islay passengers. Kirkwall is on a par with last year.

Mr Lyon said: “What these figures illustrate above all is the vital role our airports play in the future sustainability and prosperity the communities we serve.

We continue to invest in our facilities and to make improvements that benefit our passengers and the aircraft companies that serve them.” Managing Director of the Patio Hotel Group, Tony Story, said: “It’s no coincidence that we have seen our volume of customers and particularly our rates and average spends grow at our Highland hotels, as Inverness airport passenger numbers have increased.

“The additional flights and range of destinations significantly improve the ease of travel to the Highlands and has subsequently supported growth in many business throughout the area.

The current airline thought process in terms of increasing the number of destinations and regularity of services can only help to promote growth and satisfy what appears to be a frustrated demand” Joyce Arbuckle, Area Director of Sales at The Kingsmills Hotel added:

“As the commercial significance of the Highlands grows, it’s crucial that our transport links support this. At The Kingsmills Hotel, we can see the impact of greater flight connectivity through the European conferences that we have hosted in recent years. These events are of a size that impact much of our cities businesses so we are keen to encourage even greater direct routes from Europe.”

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