Highlands & Islands Airports logo

Highlands & Islands Airports

  • Country/Region: Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • Telephone: 01667 462445
  • Website: www.hial.co.uk
  • Type: 1-4 Million


• Turnover grows to £22 million • Passenger numbers grow 15.4% to 1.6 million • Losses cut from £3.38 million to £8,000 • Investment levels at £16 million • Inverness and Sumburgh airports lead business development

Leading regional airport operator, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), is reporting a significant increase in turnover and passenger numbers for the 2016/17 financial year.

The private limited company, which is wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers and is responsible for the management and operation of 11 airports across the Highlands and Islands, has boosted turnover to £21.4 million, increased passenger numbers by 15.4% to 1.6 million, and cut losses from £3.38 million in 2015/16 to just £8,000, for the same period in 2016/17.

Figures lodged today (October 4, 2017) also highlight a continued investment of £16 million across the group’s airports at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.

HIAL Chief Executive, Inglis Lyon, believes the airport group is in good shape for further growth in the current financial year. 

“Working with stakeholders, we are committed to supporting the essential socio-economic role of aviation in Scotland through the maintenance and development of our airports, many of which provide important jobs and support in fragile economic areas,” he said.

“However, whilst we are delighted with the progress being made, the HIAL board and our partners must take advantage of this positive position by finding additional funding from which to further invest in our facilities and services and ensure the growth trend continues to be upwards.

“Connectivity remains key to the success of the Scottish, as well as the Highland and Islands economy, and for HIAL, it is at the forefront of everything we do.

“Over the last year we witnessed significant improvements both in business and tourism traffic, with new and additional flights to some of Europe’s busiest transport hubs, meaning the region is better connected by air than ever before.”

In recent years HIAL has placed significant focus on developing new routes with the various airports' offering improved significantly, with new routes to Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow, Norway’s Bergen from Kirkwall, as well as a first flight from Inverness to Palma, Majorca.

Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf welcomed the progress being made at HIAL and said: “These figures are very encouraging and I commend the staff at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd for their hard work.

“The rise in passenger numbers is particularly pleasing and underlines the importance of these airports to the remote communities they serve. Not only do they provide vital lifeline services and onward connectivity for travellers, but they also help support local economies by encouraging more people to visit the Highlands and Islands.

“I have no doubt the team at HIAL will continue to build on this success in the future.”

Mr Lyon, also pointed to the route development initiatives and increased investment in facilities as playing a key role in recent success within the airport group and said they were beginning to reap rewards for all involved.

“These new links mean the airports are now better connected than ever.  With Highland links to two of the world’s busiest aviation hubs at London and Schiphol, passengers have quick and easy access to global transfers taking them to the rest of the world.

“Further development and improvement in connectivity for the Highlands is not only good for tourism, but crucial to attract new inward investment and enhanced business opportunities. Ultimately, better access will lead growth and help the region to prosper.   Recent figures we have suggest that in one year Inverness airport contributed directly to a £75 million boost for the Highland economy from increased visitor numbers.

“In addition, we have also placed additional emphasis on creating an even more efficient organisation, with a strong focus on reducing overheads.  As a publicly owned company, everyone at HIAL is aware of the need to deliver positive results and exceptional value for money for the taxpayer.

“HIAL operates within a tight budgetary framework. This means we must continue to achieve economies of scale where possible, managing costs without compromising safety in any way.  The organisation must continue to be innovative and adaptive, seeking new business opportunities wherever possible.”

2016/17 financial year highlights included:

  • Record year for passenger figures across the HIAL group, in 2016/17 more than 1.6 million passengers travelled through the 11 regional airports – an increase of 15.4% on the previous year.
  • January 2017, marked the official opening of the newly refurbished terminal at Sumburgh Airport on Shetland, with Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP.  The airport is a key transport hub for offshore personnel and the investment of more than £6.3 million has helped to significantly improve the customer experience and provide an excellent platform for future growth.
  • Inverness passenger figures reached 829,018 for the financial year, further illustrating the airport’s popularity and increasingly important role as a driver for the Highland region and economy.  In addition to growth as a result of the airport’s Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol flights, all major routes from the city welcomed additional passengers.
  • Sumburgh Airport welcomed 355,667 passengers during the period with regular scheduled flights supporting the oil and gas sector and an increase in offshore traffic.
  • Strong tourist demand on flights from Glasgow to Barra, Islay and Tiree saw increases in passenger numbers at these important island airports, with Barra attracting 13,552 passengers in its 80th anniversary year.
  • Inverness Airport has also undertaken a series of improvements to the terminal and facilities, with £1.4m of investment to improve car parking, the arrivals area, departure lounge, retail outlets and catering offering.  A dedicated international arrivals hall was also established, encompassing the border control function, to support the airport’s increasing international links.

The improved passenger numbers have continued during the 2017/18 financial year, with the total to August across the 11 HIAL airports reaching 832,287 – a 10.6% increase on the same period for the previous year.