When you think of Scottish airports you probably think of Glasgow and Edinburgh, maybe Aberdeen if you are in the oil business. You may remember the “transatlantic gateway’ at Prestwick, but that’s it right? I’d guess that most people would be surprised to discover that there are actually another twelve to add to the list.
The first four are the familiar commercial hubs but Transport Scotland lists another eleven as part of the national infrastructure. I have included the Isle of Colonsay, because although it is privately owned, with no facilities other than a 500m tarmac runway it does have twice weekly scheduled flights. The flights connect Colonsay with Tiree, Islay and the mainland.
The majority of airports in Scotland are owned and operated by HIAL, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, on behalf of the Scottish government. You may be forgiven for thinking that such an aviation network is extravagant for a country of only 5.5 million people and an area of just over 30,000 square miles. Our geography has a large part to play as its mighty beauty has a downside. Meandering sea lochs and high mountains make surface travel a long option.
Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of HIAL makes the point; “Our airports are unique in that their core role is to provide lifeline services for our communities.”
The island communities, in particular, rely heavily on air travel for everything from postal services to the school run. This has never been more crucial as air ambulances, medical supply flights and key worker transports are about the only things flying in Scotland.
Tourism is gone for the foreseeable future and scheduled flights are grounded but business flights cling on, just. Time does of course have a direct correlation to money and for many communities now the air bridge is vital. As the crow flies distances and therefore flight times are quite short, road travel can be at the other extreme.
Glasgow and Aberdeen have found new ways to serve, as drive through testing venues for COVID19 screening. That and long stay parking facilities for aircraft that have no passengers. Part of British Airways Airbus fleet and Virgin Atlantic’s now redundant 747s sit quietly, just waiting, like the rest of us to see what the future holds.
There are many more small airfields dotted around Scotland that can be visited by suitable charter or general aviation types of aircraft. A warm welcome awaits you once we are free again, with more on offer than you may think.
Derek Provan, Chief Executive of AGS, (owners of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton Airports) was quoted recently saying: “Now more than ever it is crucial we provide the connectivity to drive growth, employment and prosperity.”
I am sure that whatever the future brings, Scottish airports will continue to be at the heart of it.