PASSENGER numbers at Sumburgh Airport plummeted almost 20,000 to 143,226 last financial year, a drop of 12.2 per cent.
The huge decline was mainly due to loss of oil related traffic, according to manager Nigel Flaws, who said the airport had recorded more than 15,000 fewer offshore passengers in 2009/10. The number of passengers on scheduled flights fell by more than 2,500.
The Shetland gateway suffered the greatest overall decline out of the 11 airports run by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).
Mr Flaws said: “Oil related business is down very significantly, and that has two main factors. There has been a lot less activity offshore, but also with the introduction of new helicopters more can fly directly from Aberdeen to the east Shetland basin without coming in here to refuel.”
Mr Flaws said the decline in regular passengers was mainly due to the economic downturn.
The recent disruption caused by volcanic ash from Iceland was not reflected in the figures published by HIAL on Tuesday.
However the new financial year got off to a difficult start with the cancellation of dozens of flights from Sumburgh over a seven day stretch.
“People may not be confident to travel over the next few months before they know what this volcano does. That is certainly a concern for us,” the airport manager said.
However with increasing activity in the oil and gas sector he is confident Shetland will be able to win back some offshore business in the North Sea and west of Shetland.
Overall passenger numbers were down by eight per cent for HIAL, with Inverness recording an 11.8 per cent decline to 585,000, while Dundee did exceptionally well with numbers increasing by 12 per cent to 75,000.
The state owned company’s revenue budget for 2010/11 has been cut by £1.1 million to £18.1 million as the Scottish government attempts to reduce its expenditure.
One contentious cost saving proposal is to charge for car parking at Sumburgh airport, which many regard as presenting a further threat to airport usage.
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