'Record' year for Scottish regional airports
A resurgent energy sector helped Scottish regional airports attract a record number of passengers last year, according to airports operator Hial.
Its 11 airports in the Highlands and islands handled 1,367,342 passengers in the last financial year - 70,000 more than the previous 12 months.
Hial said much of the growth was linked to the energy sector, with Sumburgh and Wick John O'Groats benefiting the most.
At Sumburgh in Shetland, numbers grew by 32.2%, due to oil and gas traffic.
Wick John O'Groats airport in Caithness recorded growth of 21.7% following an increase in energy-related fixed wing and helicopter operations.
Growing demand for key domestic and international hubs, including Manchester, Birmingham, Gatwick and Amsterdam, lifted traffic at Inverness Airport by 1.3% to more than 619,000 - its busiest year for five years.
Passenger numbers also grew at Kirkwall in Orkney (up 8.3%) and at Islay off the west coast (up 2%).
However, several smaller airports reported a drop in passenger numbers, which Hial attributed to schedule changes and reduced capacity on key routes.
A reduction in inter-island services resulted in fewer passengers at Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway airports.
Campbeltown and Tiree also recorded falls.
At Dundee, services to London City were reduced, resulting in lower capacity.
However, a new twice-daily weekday service from Dundee to London Stansted was launched last month.'Best-ever year'
Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said: "Last year was our best ever in passenger terms, with the group exceeding the 1.3 million mark for the first time.
"We owe much of this success to Hial's capacity to attract new energy-related business, particularly at Wick John O'Groats and Sumburgh.
"The picture is less encouraging at some of our smaller airports, such as Barra and Benbecula, where changes to the inter-island schedule have had a significant impact on passenger numbers.
"These airports nevertheless play a vital social and economic role in the communities they serve and we will continue to seek new opportunities to enhance connectivity to the islands."
Meanwhile, Hial's airports handled 104,983 passengers last month, up 1.3% on March 2013.