Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) saw passenger numbers rise above 900,000 for the first time with a record number of travellers using its airports.
During the first half of the 2016-17 financial year from April-September, 908,116 people used HIAL airports, up by 111,750 on the same period last year.
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 – a rise of 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 deliver connecting passengers from the USA and Europe. A new connection to Geneva Airport is scheduled to begin in December with easyJet.
At Stornoway additional demand over the holiday period boosted passenger numbers travelling to and from Glasgow resulting in a growth in demand.
Dundee Airport has seen a near doubling in passenger traffic with numbers increasing to 24,46 6 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.”
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 D irector 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. ” Ongoing strong support of the public meant that figures grew at Tiree and Barra where passenger figures grew over the summer. Cancellations due to weather played a part in reduction in passengers at Benbecula and Campbeltown.