Activity in oil sector boosts passenger numbers at HIAL airports

Passenger numbers at Scotland’s regional airports jumped by more than 10% last month, with the booming oil sector responsible for much of the growth.

Latest figures from airport operator HIAL [Highlands and Islands Airports Limited] show that its 11 airports handled 101,701 passengers in November, an increase of 10.5% on the same month last year.

Given the economic climate, that’s an encouraging growth.

Sumburgh  – unsurprisingly – recorded a whacking 50.6% increase in passenger numbers, the result of a significant increase in offshore oil sector charters and refueling activity – and increased demand across all scheduled services.

Wick-John O’Groats reported an increase of 28.7%, also as a result of oil sector charters and an increase in the number of scheduled passengers travelling on the Edinburgh route.

Additional demand for Glasgow services resulted in growth at Argyll’s HIAL airports at Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree, where passenger numbers grew by 33.7%, 9.4% and 6.1% respectively. This is not only particularly good news for Campbeltown  – showing the second highest growth rate in the HIAL portfolio – but points to room for further growth with astute and targeted marketing and route development.

At Kirkwall, additional flights in the winter schedule to mainland and island destinations resulted in a 16.1% increase in passenger numbers.

At Inverness, passenger numbers grew by 0.9%, with services to Amsterdam, Manchester and Birmingham enjoying the strongest growth, albeit demand was offset by cuts in the winter schedules to Luton and Gatwick.

Dundee enjoyed growth on the London City route and additional charter and business aviation traffic, resulting in a 4.9% increase in passengers. However, the withdrawal of services to Belfast and Birmingham this month is likely to dampen passenger growth in the coming months.

Barra  – still a major growth airport, with the impact of the idyllic An Island Parish television series recorded a 22.2% increase in traffic.

The other side of the story – encouragingly a lesser one, is a drop in passenger numbers, seen with Stornoway and Benbecula, where passenger numbers fell by 5.3% and 4.1% respectively.

The number of aircraft movements during the month increased by 19.7%.

In the year to date (April to November), passenger numbers across the group increased by 2.3%.

Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of HIAL, says: ‘These are especially strong growth figures, particularly given the time of year and prevailing economic climate. The continued growth in oil related traffic is particularly good news for our airports in the North and Northern Isles.

‘With increased offshore oil activity in the area planned, we are confident this growth will continue in the coming years and that we can gain a greater share of this lucrative market, due to our ability to respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of the energy sector.’

November passenger totals

  • BARRA 705 (+22.2%)
  • BENBECULA 2,868 (-4.1%)
  • CAMPBELTOWN 864 (+33.7%)
  • DUNDEE 4,796 (+4.9%)
  • INVERNESS 43,017 (+0.9%)
  • ISLAY     2,115 (+9.4%)
  • KIRKWALL 13,229 (+16.1%)
  • STORNOWAY 10,460 (-5.3%)
  • SUMBURGH 19,709 (+50.6%)
  • TIREE 712 (+6.1%)
  • WICK JOHN O’GROATS 3,226 (+28.7%)
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