After much anticipation, amidst tartan and purple the competition on large parts of the Highland network started.
In the first instance can I say thank you to our teams who helped to prepare for the operations. With Alternative Security Measures (ASMs), major resurfacing works and crowded aprons I know it wasn’t straightforward but they managed it well and we’re all grateful. From an airline side and not unexpectedly, there have been a number of teething problems and no doubt they’ll get resolved as things settle down.
These are early days and we don’t know to what extent the additional operations have generated traffic or simply displaced from one to the other, but by the end of this week, we’ll have a weeks’ worth of data which we will share in due course.
On pensions, we had a session with the pension trustees last week. Central to our discussions was the strength of the employer covenant, which influences the investment decisions taken by the trustees. In preparation for the meeting, we had undertaken much work with the government on the employer covenant and I believe that our discussion with the trustees went well.
Still much to do, but a positive start.
This week and next, we have interviews for the new HR Director and it won’t be too long before we have the right person in place. The timing of the appointment is particularly important given the potential outcomes from our strategy work, the work streams that may emerge from Helios and the AFS strategy.
Similarly, we have concluded our interviews for the new Head of ICT and Digital Transformation and I will make an announcement shortly. During our staff forums, the single largest frustration to emerge was the performance of our IT infrastructure. It is therefore good to finally get the right person in post. No doubt as he tries to understand some of the issues we face he will be in touch with our teams who will paint the picture for him.
When I wrote last I mentioned the ten year capital plan and the work that was underway. Following the Board meeting, we have further work to do to better present the plan and I should get that done this week and then off to government. The plan is divided into two parts, the essential works required to keep the airfields open and the additional works required to cope with anticipated growth.
To put the growth into context, over the last few years we have grown our passenger base by nearly 65% and our revenues from just under £10m to over £23m. Specifically and over the same period, Inverness has grown from 565,000 passengers to over 830,000, Sumburgh from 116,000 passengers to 355,667 and at the other end of the scale, Tiree from 6,000 passengers to just over 12,000.
The majority of the other airports have grown also and those above are simply illustrative of the scale of the change we have seen.
These are impressive figures in any context and if we are to continue to grow, it’s vital that we continue to invest both in the works that keep the airfields open and those which future proof our continued success.
VisitScotland estimate that each inbound passenger generates over £300 of spend and in Inverness alone, inbound aviation will generate almost £75m to the local economy.
Money invested in HIAL – is money well spent.