SOARING passenger numbers at Inverness airport and its other sites have helped Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial) slash its annual losses.
The firm said booming passenger figures and rising turnover had helped the company make a drastic cut in its annual losses, from £3.38 million the previous year to just £8000.
The financial report reveals that turnover in the 2016/17 financial year grew to £22 million, while annual passenger numbers at Hial’s 11 airports increased by 15.4 per cent to 1.6 million.
At the same time Hial is continuing to make a £16 million investment across the group’s airports at Inverness, Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, 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 and said the group was committed to supporting Scottish aviation’s essential socio-economic role through the maintenance and development of its airports, many of which provide important jobs and support in fragile economic areas.
"However, while 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," he added.
"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."
The positive results follow the introduction of new and additional flights, including new routes to Amsterdam Schiphol and London Heathrow from Inverness, as well as a first flight from Inverness to Palma, Majorca.
"These new links mean the airports are now better connected than ever," Mr Lyon said.
"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."
Scottish Government minister for transport and the islands Humza Yousaf welcomed the progress being made at Hial.
"The rise in passenger numbers is particularly pleasing and underlines the importance of these airports to the remote communities they serve," he said.