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Passenger numbers drop at Wick airport

By David G Scott

HIGHLANDS and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) has published figures for 2019 showing a serious decline in passenger numbers at Wick John O'Groats Airport.

Wick had an annual total of 17,538 passengers for 2019 which was down by nearly 2000 from the 2018 figure of 19,520 – a 10.2 per cent drop.

This left it second from bottom in the table of passenger movements issued by Hial which included those on scheduled flights, larger commercial charters, air ambulance, small commercial charters, private charters and business flights.

Only Sumburgh in Shetland performed worse, with passenger numbers down by 11.8 per cent.

Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said the performance of the airports was in line with expectations and reflected aviation trends.

He added: “We face challenges from a variety of sources including regulatory, technological, environmental and societal changes in coming years. Nonetheless we will continue to invest in our airports and we are committed to continuously improving infrastructure and enhancing passenger facilities.”

Wick John O'Groats Airport had fewer passengers over 2019. .Picture: DGS
Wick John O'Groats Airport had fewer passengers over 2019. .Picture: DGS

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Gail Ross expressed her disappointment at the drop in numbers at the airport.

"No doubt this is a result of high prices of flights and continuing reports of unreliability and cancellations, especially on the Wick to Aberdeen route.

"I know that part of the reason for the increase in numbers in Inverness is due to people from Caithness travelling to catch flights from there instead.

"I am hopeful that the business case put together by Hial and Caithness Chamber of Commerce can be implemented and will result in increased confidence in using the airport and will safeguard local jobs.”

Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said the reduction in passengers at Wick should be of no surprise.

North MSP Gail Ross is disappointed by the fall in numbers.Picture: DGS
North MSP Gail Ross is disappointed by the fall in numbers.Picture: DGS

She said: “We have for several years been saying that the air services from Wick do not meet the needs of the region, significantly hampering business and inward investment.

“The airport has been the subject of significant partnership efforts, led by the chamber, and we are in the process of pulling together a final business case for improved services for consideration by Transport Scotland.

"The aspiration is to achieve a timetable to allow reliable, affordable connections to enable a full day’s business to be possible in either direction and open up a significant number of connections to international destinations.”

Inverness Airport continued to see a rise in passengers with an increase of 4.8 per cent, up to 946,391 in 2018 from 903,157 in 2018.

Islay also reported an increase year-on-year with 36,045 passengers in 2019 compared with 35,770 in 2018. Dundee saw a small increase in passengers, up to 22,024 in 2019 from 21,889 the previous year.

Sumburgh saw passenger movements dip 11.8 per cent to 328,163 from 372,064 in 2018. This was largely due altered oil and gas flight patterns that support offshore operations. Scheduled passenger numbers were also lower on Aberdeen and Glasgow routes.

Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Tiree as well as Wick saw lower passenger numbers in 2019 compared with the previous year.

Mr Lyon said: “I am pleased that Inverness Airport continues to perform well and continues its long-standing period of growth which it has enjoyed in recent years. This has been helped by the introduction of an early morning and late evening return from Heathrow.

"Routes to Luton and Gatwick have also performed well and our connection to Amsterdam continues to be popular with travellers.

“We will continue to nurture and develop our network while at the same time ensuring we invest in future-proofing our operational capability."

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