The airport authority at the centre of a row over car parking charges has announced a 17.9 per cent growth in passenger numbers at Sumburgh.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) has courted controversy with plans to start charging £3 a day from 1st July announced without any prior consultation – although the company yesterday launched a passenger survey into the planned charges.
Its managing director Inglis Lyon has previously defended the decision, insisting it is needed to cover the cost of improvements made at Shetland’s main airport.
However, the organisation is now boasting of an overall hike in passenger numbers of 7.4 per cent in 2017/18.
It says more travellers than ever used the company’s 11 airports across Scotland.
Sumburgh welcomed 63,781 more passengers during the period with regularly scheduled flights supporting the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic.
A total of 1,780,521 customers used Hial airports during the 12-month period from April 2017 to March 2018, an increase of 112,098 on the 2016/17 total of 1,658,423.
A Hial press release lists Sumburgh’s near 18 per cent growth as one of the highlights, as well as a 9.3 per cent year-on-year increase at Barra, 9.1 per cent additional customers at Kirkwall, and 8.4 per cent more passengers at Islay.
Inverness passenger numbers increased by 46,855. A continuation of the airport’s Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol flights helped to boost numbers to 875,873 with all major routes from the city seeing additional passengers.
The company says “robust” growth was seen at nine of the organisation’s 11 airports across Scotland.
Mr Lyon said: “Overall, the past year has been another of significant growth in passenger figures across the Hial group, this highlights the customer demand for our air services and the continued support and connectivity they provide for communities.”
Mr Lyon said passenger numbers could have been even better, but the severe weather experienced in the UK as the so-called “Beast from the East” arrived resulted in many of the country’s airports closing, which had a knock-on effect.
He said: “We are constantly looking at ways to attract additional business and continue to invest in our airports to further improve services and add new routes.”
The company’s annual results for 2017/18 will be announced later this year.
On the subject of the passenger survey, Mr Lyon added: “Having announced the plans to introduce the charges, we wanted to get the views of those who use the airports to further understand what we might do to ensure that the proposals work practically for everyone involved.”
Hial’s chairwoman Lorna Jack is to meet Shetland MSP Tavish Scott next week to follow up on her earlier invitation to discuss the proposals.