Passenger numbers at Scotland’s regional airports grew last month [March 2013], bringing a positive end to the winter season. This leads into a summer season with new flight destinations and improvements to existing services. A new service will also come into operation in December.
The latest figures from airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Limited [HIAL] show that its 11 airports handled 103,616 passengers in March, an increase of 5,507 (+5.6%) on last March. An early Easter and continuing growth in the energy sector helped to boost the numbers.
Passenger numbers were up at Sumburgh, Wick John O’Groats, Barra, Kirkwall and Benbecula, while numbers at Inverness were essentially static.
However, numbers fell at all three Argyll airports – Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree; and at Stornoway and Dundee.
The figures also show that annual passenger numbers at HIAL have reached a four year high.
In the 12 months to March, passenger numbers across the group increased by 3.1% to 1,297,676 – the highest since the 2008/09 financial year.
Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of HIAL says: ‘This winter has seen some particularly strong growth, with passenger numbers up during every month of the winter season.
‘In large part, this is a result of the upturn in oil related traffic at Wick John O’Groats and Sumburgh, a key sector for our business and one with real growth potential.
‘Kirkwall and Barra have also been performing well, with significant growth at both airports.
‘After a difficult period for the aviation industry, we are encouraged to see annual passenger numbers reach a four year high.
‘There are some challenges for the aviation business, with fuel costs remaining high and the UK economic outlook still weak.
‘Nevertheless, we are look forward to what we hope will be a busy summer season with additional capacity on several key routes and the launch of some fantastic new holiday packages.’
The start of the summer season, which runs from April to October, will see the return of international flights from Inverness to Zurich, operated by Helvetic Airways; and the launch of new package holidays to some of Switzerland’s top mountain resorts as well as the French Riviera.
- Flybe’s popular service from Inverness to Amsterdam will operate daily from 13 April 2013.
- Flights from Kirkwall and Sumburgh to Bergen, operated by Loganair, will resume in May.
- Campbeltown is set to benefit from the launch of a new Sunday service to and from Glasgow on 16th June;
- Loganair will extend its Sunday service between Glasgow and Tiree, operating from mid June until the end of September.
- Flights to Jersey will also operate from Dundee, from 4th May, and Inverness, from 8th June. Flybe’s mid afternoon departure from Inverness to London Gatwick will also return from 1st May.
- Regional airline Flybe also confirmed a new weekly service from Inverness to Geneva, starting in December.
Last month, HIAL became the first airport operator in Scotland to offer passengers free wifi. The system is now live across HIAL’s 11 airports.