Sumburgh in Shetland and Wick John O'Groats Airport enjoyed strong year-on-year growth in passenger numbers in September.
This helped Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) achieve a 9.7% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers in September across its 11 airports. HIAL said yesterday that its airports had handled 126,672 passengers in September, up by 11,229 on the same month of last year.
HIAL, which is wholly-owned by the Scottish Ministers and sponsored by the Scottish Government Transport Directorate, declined to comment yesterday on the move earlier this month to take the troubled Prestwick Airport into public ownership.
A spokesman for HIAL, asked if it had any comment on the Prestwick situation, replied: "I don't think it is really one for us (to comment on)."
The Scottish Government announced earlier this month that Prestwick Airport was to be taken into public ownership to avoid the "devastating blow" its closure would cause to the local and wider economy. This announcement was triggered by the failure of Prestwick Airport's New Zealand-based owner, Infratil, to find a buyer after putting the South Ayrshire aviation hub up for sale about 18 months ago.
HIAL, which has the remit of supporting economic and social development in the Highlands and Islands, reported that passenger numbers at Sumburgh in September were up by 58.5% on the same month of last year at 25,447.
Passenger numbers at Wick John O'Groats in September were up by 119% on the same month of last year at 4634.
HIAL said the "particularly strong growth" at Sumburgh and Wick John O'Groats was the result of increased energy traffic and growing demand for scheduled passenger services.
The HIAL spokesman cited a boost to passenger numbers at Wick John O'Groats from services operated for oil giant Chevron.
Inverness, HIAL's busiest airport, achieved a 3.1% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers to 59,388 in September. HIAL said that Inverness had recorded growth on its Amsterdam, Belfast, Bristol, Birmingham, Gatwick, and Manchester routes.
In contrast, HIAL reported that Barra airport had seen a 16% year-on-year fall in passenger numbers to 872 in September. Passenger numbers at Benbecula in September totalled 2620, down 17.6% on the same month of last year.
The HIAL spokesman cited the impact of the withdrawal in the spring of flights between Barra and Benbecula. He also cited a reduction, in the spring, in the frequency of services between Stornoway on Lewis and Benbecula. Passenger numbers at Stornoway in September were down 5% year-on-year at 10,921.
Dundee Airport, for which HIAL assumed responsibility in December 2007, recorded a 53.6% year-on-year drop in passenger numbers to 2461 in September.
The HIAL spokesman cited the withdrawal last December of Loganair-Flybe flights between Dundee and Belfast City and Birmingham as the reason for this steep year-on-year drop.
Islay recorded a 7.1% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers to 2718 in September. HIAL cited an influx of visitors to the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival. At Kirkwall in Orkney, there was a 10.6% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers to 15,975. Campbeltown saw a 4.5% year-on-year fall in passenger numbers to 933 in September.
Commenting on passenger numbers since the April 1 start of HIAL's new financial year, managing director Inglis Lyon said: "We have added almost 50,000 extra passengers so far in this financial year which, given the distinct challenges some of our airports face, is particularly encouraging.
"Business and tourism growth is essential for the regional economy of Scotland, particularly in our more remote locations. In recent months, we have secured additional passenger services at Campbeltown, Inverness, Wick John O'Groats and Sumburgh and we are continuing to look at new opportunities for growth."