Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL), an organization operated by the Scottish government responsible for running airports serving the country’s islands, has published its 2021-2026 strategic plan with a focus on recovery from Covid-19 and decarbonization.
In addition to developing a carbon-neutral regional airport network, HIAL says it will continue to support economic prosperity and deliver social benefit for communities throughout the Highlands and Islands. By committing to a strategic program of sustainable low carbon development, the company says it will align with the Scottish government’s strategic objectives and aims to make all 11 of its airports carbon-neutral by 2040.
HIAL chair Lorna Jack commented, “HIAL’s mission is to create social benefit and economic prosperity by building Scotland’s sustainable regional airport group of the future. We recognize we must explore safe, but also different operating models to decarbonize our operations and enable greener air services. With new advances in technology, cleaner air travel will become more viable – and our aim is for HIAL to be at the forefront of Scotland’s efforts to transition to a low carbon future – both in aviation and as a nation.
“Many of the opportunities identified in this plan will not be realized without new initiatives and support from our partners. We will work closely with the Scottish government and others to achieve our long-term vision of becoming a net-zero carbon regional airport group.”
The global health crisis presented by Covid-19 has affected every aspect of HIAL’s operations. Its largest airport at Inverness, which processed 946,000 passengers in 2019, saw this figure reduced to just over 246,000 in 2020 due to travel restrictions. By the end of December 2020, the total year-on-year decline in passenger numbers was 66%, with a reduction in aircraft movement of 42% across all HIAL airports.
HIAL says its priority since early March 2020 has been to protect staff and passengers, while continuing to maintain the viability of the lifeline services. Managing director Inglis Lyon remarked, “The pandemic will continue to have a significant impact on everyone’s lives and considerable impact on our business. However, it has also underlined the significant – even critical – role that HIAL’s airports continue to play in maintaining connectivity for our communities.
“By protecting air access to communities, we play our part in ensuring that these often more remote communities remain sustainable. We will continue to work with the Scottish government, partner agencies and our airline partners to retain key routes and to bring in new services where existing ones are canceled.”