Leading regional airport operator, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), has reported a 38.7% year-on-year increase in passenger numbers for 2022/23, with the figures now approaching pre-pandemic levels.
The twelve months to March 2023 saw almost 1.5 million people use the 11 regional airports in the HIAL network, which equates to 85% of the figures being recorded before the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent travel restrictions.
There were significant increases at Inverness (up by 63.5% to 750,235 passengers), Dundee (+59.2% to 41,127 passengers), Stornoway (+29.1% to 103,856 passengers), Kirkwall (+13.3% to 127,915 passengers) and Sumburgh (+10.2% to 303,704 passengers).
Passenger figures at Islay rose by 59.7% to 27,738, Campbeltown were up by 40.8% to 6,712, Tiree was up by 15.3% to 11,600, Benbecula rose by 11.5% to 31,376, Barra saw a 9.4% increase to 12,928 and Wick John O’ Groats, recorded 9,200 passengers.
HIAL Managing Director, Inglis Lyon, said the increases were a testament to the work and commitment of staff across the organisation to get the airports back to the levels they were operating at before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Lyon said:
“The figures highlight the vital role our people and airports play in the future sustainability and prosperity the communities we serve.
“They also a reflect well on the huge effort made by our airline partners to maintain service levels throughout the recovery period.
“Despite the pressures placed on business and people across the country throughout the pandemic, we have continued to invest in our facilities and to make improvements that benefit our passengers as well as the aircraft companies that serve them.
“With almost 1.5 million people passing through our 11 airports across the Highlands and Islands over the past 12 months, the economies in each of those areas will have benefited significantly from the added investment and spending they bring with them.
“Additionally, our ability to provide customers with increased opportunities to connect to the key airport hubs including Amsterdam and London means the areas we serve are better connected than ever to the major airline networks.
“We are now looking forward to what could be a strong summer season with customers again getting back to a level of confidence in travelling which will be a significant boost to those travelling to and from the Highlands.”
The total number of passengers using HIAL airports in the year 2022/23 was 1,426,391, compared to 1,028,466 in the 2021/22 financial year.
In the 2019/20 financial year passenger numbers stood at 1,682,245.
Scottish Government Minister for Transport Kevin Stewart said:
“These are welcome figures as HIAL and the wider aviation industry continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
“I look forward to seeing passenger numbers continue to rise at HIAL’s airports during the coming year.
“Many of the routes from HIAL’s airports provide essential connectivity for the communities they serve and increasing passenger numbers will help to ensure that this connectivity is maintained into the future.”