All of the HITRANS area's airports that provide scheduled services are publicly owned and funded. There are nine major airports. They are operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, a company wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers. In addition, there are a number of smaller airports and airstrips. These are owned by the local authorities and are used to provide air services within their Council area.
The nine major airports see around 1 million terminal passengers per year. Inverness is the busiest one, with over half a million terminal passengers. Three (Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway) collectively account for around 90% of the major airports' passengers.
Inverness is the only airport with all year round cross-border services. However, in common with many UK regions our area no longer has a service to Heathrow, with its London services operating to Gatwick and Luton. Inverness also offers connectivity to Amsterdam offering excellent onward travel opportunities to the world traveler.
Passenger Services and Fares
Most scheduled passenger services operate commercially. The exceptions are the intra-local authority flights along with those from Glasgow to Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree. The timetables and fares for those routes are set through their tendering by the public sector, with subsidy provided for them. This is via PSOs (Public Service Obligations). On other intra-Scottish routes fares for residents of the areas served are provided at reduced rates through the Air Discount Scheme.
The HITRANS area also has scheduled freight services, as well as freight carried in the holds of passenger planes. The main cargoes are mail and newspapers, along with some high value time-sensitive products (such as seafood).
The air services complement the options available for surface travel. In particular they offer:
- Fast passenger travel for what would otherwise be long surface journey times.
- Day trip opportunities to/from major service centres.
- Travel suited to time sensitive business trips.
- Travel suited to some passengers travelling for health treatment.
The key issues facing the air services in our area include:
- The need for more intensive use of the airports and aircraft providing scheduled services. The high fares on non-PSO services paid by those who are not eligible for ADS.
- Providing guaranteed access for flights from our area to major hub airports.
- Managing the environmental impact of aviation without adversely affecting economic growth and sustainability in our communities.