GROWTH in oil industry traffic going through Sumburgh on Shetland played a key part in an overall rise in third-quarter passenger numbers at Highlands and Islands Airports.
Publicly-owned Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) reported yesterday that 522,476 customers used its 11 airports between July and September, up by 7.4 per cent or 36,038 on the same period of last year.
Sumburgh Airport handled 117,038 passengers during the third quarter, up by 14.7 per cent or 14,970 on the same period of 2016. HIAL, which employs about 600 people, viewed this as “further evidence of growth in the oil and gas sector, and an increase in offshore traffic using the recently refurbished airport”.
There are several high-profile oil and gas developments occurring in the East and West of Shetland areas. Inverness-based HIAL noted that passengers travelling to oil and gas sites around Shetland tended to take a fixed-wing flight from Aberdeen to Sumburgh, and transfer to helicopters.
Signs of significant growth in oil and gas passenger traffic through Shetland is a welcome sign for Scotland’s broader economy. Oil and gas sector woes arising from the global crude price plunge have been a drag on Scottish growth in recent times.
The HIAL figures also show good growth in traffic at Inverness Airport. Passenger numbers at Inverness in the three months to September totalled 268,468, up by 8.8 per cent or 21,703 on the same period of last year.
HIAL cited the airport’s “increasingly important role as a driver for the Highland region and economy”. It highlighted increased numbers of passengers on Inverness’s Heathrow, Amsterdam, Gatwick, and Manchester routes.
Meanwhile, a jump in third-quarter passenger numbers at several island airports signalled a summer tourism boost.
Third-quarter passenger numbers at Barra Airport, at 4,654, were up by 19.2 per cent on the same period of last year. Stornoway Airport handled 37,546 passengers between July and September, up by 4.2 per cent on the same period of last year.
And Tiree’s passenger numbers in the third quarter, at 4,600, were up by 20 per cent on the same period of 2016.
Benbecula’s third-quarter passenger numbers were up by 6.9 per cent at 10,003.
On the mainland, Campbeltown Airport‘s passenger numbers in the third quarter were 2,706, up by 5.4 per cent on the same period of last year.
Passenger numbers at Dundee Airport in the three months to September were, at 5,613, down by 9,813 or 63.6 per cent on the third quarter of 2016.
HIAL attributed this fall to the withdrawal of the Flybe Amsterdam service around the turn of the year.
And HIAL noted passenger numbers at Wick John O’Groats were, at 5,229, down by 1,114 or 17.6 per cent on the same period of 2016 “due in part to reduced demand from energy sector services to and from Aberdeen and offshore platforms”.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We are pleased to report that the overall passenger numbers continue to rise, illustrating the strong demand for ever-greater connectivity to and from the Highlands and Islands. The figures are robust and, if our airports are witnessing sustained growth in passenger numbers, that is almost certainly having a positive effect on the communities across the Highlands and Islands.”
He added: “The role of regional airports is to support and enhance the local economy and there is now substantial evidence that enhanced air connectivity, whether for passengers or freight, has a major impact on trade and the opportunities for local businesses. Increased passengers means more tourism and business spend, which in itself can support jobs.”
Fraser Grieve, regional director for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said: “Continued growth through Inverness Airport shows the impact that their improved connections and increased routes are having on the Highlands, with many hotels and visitor attractions reporting bumper trade.”
HIAL’s total passenger numbers in the three months to September, as well as being higher than in the same period of 2016, were up significantly from 477,612 in the second quarter.
Source : HeraldScotland