The total number of air travellers using terminals run by the north’s publicly-owned airport operator has fallen for the first time in seven years, according to new figures.
Last night, Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial) said the drop-off in numbers that had been climbing since 2012 was mainly due to a significant reduction in oil and gas industry helicopter traffic in Shetland.
The figure was revealed in Hial’s annual accounts, which also showed the company’s pre-tax losses from continuing operations rose to £3.3 million in the 12 months to the end of March, from £3.08m the previous year. Turnover at the firm, which operates 10 terminals in the Highlands and Islands and Dundee Airport, rose by £204,000 to £25m over the period.
According to the figures, at 1.7 million, the number of passengers using the 11 airports in the most recent financial year was more than 38,000 down on the total for 2017-18. Aircraft movements decreased by 1,526, from 135,620 to 134,094.
At Shetland’s Sumburgh Airport, a 17% drop in passenger numbers saw the total fall from 419,448 to 348,443 year-on-year. Aircraft movements there were down 18%, from 25,628 to 20,973.
A Hial spokesman said the decline in overall passenger numbers was “almost entirely down to lower number of oil and gas workers flying onshore and offshore via Sumburgh”.
Hial managing director Inglis Lyon added: “Hial continues to play a vital role in Scotland’s transport network and we continue to work towards ensuring the longevity of essential air links for our local and business communities.
“As a publicly-owned body we operate within a tight fiscal framework and, operationally, aim to spend no more than the grant we are given by government and we seek to achieve best value in all we do.
“We will continue with our drive to increase business, achieve efficiencies and manage costs while never compromising on safety.”