Published: 16/07/2012 15:10 - Updated: 16/07/2012 15:18

Weather dampens Highlands' air passenger figures

Fog has led to a drop in some airport passenger numbers
Fog has led to a drop in some airport passenger numbers

Passenger numbers at the region’s airports grew last month but the strong growth of recent times was dampened by unseasonable weather conditions.

Figures from airport operator HIAL show that 121,171 passengers used its 11 airports last month, a rise of 0.7% compared to June, last year.

The lower than average increase was a result of weather related disruption across the HIAL network caused by heavy fog.

Passenger numbers at Inverness rose by 4.1%, boosted by increased international traffic.

At Sumburgh, an increase in oil sector movements was offset by cancellations due to fog and a reduction in traffic to Kirkwall and Inverness. Overall, passenger numbers rose by 2.9%.

Cancellations due to fog also impacted Kirkwall, where traffic grew by 0.1%, and at Wick, where passenger numbers fell by 31.8%.

Passenger numbers were also down at Stornoway (-4.2%), Benbecula (-1.2%), Campbeltown (-16.1%) and Islay (-1.5%).

Mr Inglis Lyon, managing director of HIAL, said: "The adverse weather across the network was undoubtedly a factor in last month’s more modest growth figures, but the underlying trend suggests that passenger numbers are rising at a group level.

"This growth illustrates the importance of air links to the communities we serve, particularly our remote island communities, but also the business and tourism sector, which relies so heavily on a strong network of air links.

"Our priority is to maintain and support our existing links, while exploring new opportunities to enhance our UK and international network."

The HIAL group connects regional Scotland to a network of more than 30 UK and international destinations, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, London, Southampton, Jersey, Amsterdam, Bergen, Dusseldorf and Zurich.

Popular holiday destinations in Austria, Croatia, Italy and Portugal are also served from the Highland capital.

The company employs almost 600 people across its 11 airports, and at its group headquarters in Inverness.

In 2011, the group handled more than 1.15 million passengers.

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