The airport itself dates back to the 1940’s, originally built as an RAF station during the Second World War. Since then it has grown and developed into the largest operating airport in the Highlands and Islands providing a vital link for the region’s communities. The airport terminal building as everyone knows it, was built in 1999 and has continued to develop ever since. Graeme Bell who has been Airport Manager for 12 years and enjoys the variety that comes with the role, said:
“As the manager for the airport my job involves keeping the business running on a day to day basis and I have a great team to support me in making that happen.
“Inverness City itself is growing at a fast pace and the airport needs to keep up with the local community’s needs. My job involves working with our airline partners to make sure our current routes are operating smoothly, as well as looking at opportunities for new routes in and out of Inverness.
“Like many other businesses, Inverness Airport has been impacted by Covid-19, but the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of not just Inverness Airport but the whole network of HIAL’s airports to the region.
“We are committed to protecting essential connections and helping local and business communities as we build our recovery for the future. We have not stood still during the pandemic and in many areas have maintained momentum in building for the future. One example is the organisations commitment to becoming a ‘net-zero carbon regional airport group’ and playing their part in helping Scotland transition towards a low carbon future. “
As part of this commitment, Graeme and the team were delighted when Inverness Airport was awarded Level 1 (Mapping) status from the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) scheme earlier this year. The certification, granted by the Airports Council International, recognised the airports efforts to reduce its carbon emissions. In doing so, Inverness joined another 56 airports in 16 countries in taking the first steps towards becoming carbon neutral.
The airport currently employees 150 staff. Each one of them played a part in it being recognised for its commitment to high levels of customer service during the pandemic by Airports Council International (ACI). The award is part of the ACI’s global benchmarking programme, which recently introduced the ‘Voice of the Customer’ initiative. The initiative recognised airports that continued to prioritise their customers and ensure their voice was heard during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Graeme said “The whole team at Inverness has worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to introduce the essential Covid safety measures to keep everyone safe at the airport. At the same time, they have continued to provide the same high level of professionalism and friendliness that our passengers and customers have come to expect. I’m delighted that this has been recognised and I am so proud of the team for their hard work and dedication.”
Covid continues to impact passenger numbers at the airport. However, as restrictions continue to ease there have been signs of recovery with passenger numbers beginning to rise. The airport has seen a number of routes returning for Loganair and easyJet airlines including Belfast, Bristol and Manchester. Another positive for Inverness is the return of double daily British Airways flights to London Heathrow from the 22 June.
The recent news confirming works on the new railway station near Inverness Airport will boost connection options to the airport and provides stronger links to the city centre.
When looking to the future Graeme added: “Recovery is the key word for the next 12 months, like many other businesses across the UK. We are already beginning to see green shoots of recovery within the UK travel industry and the growth has been positive. But we have to remain cautious and make sure that we are playing our part to stop the spread of the virus.”
The safety and wellbeing of everyone at the airport remains a priority and the safety measures introduced at the beginning of the pandemic will continue. All passengers arriving and travelling through the terminal building must wear facial coverings and respect physical distancing requirements. You can get more details of the measures in place and what to expect at the airport on the Inverness website.
When asked about the value the Chamber membership provides, Graeme highlighted the connection it gives to key businesses and groups within the area.
Giving some advice, Graeme said: ”Make use of the online events offered during the pandemic, the Chamber provide some really valuable sessions. They are a great way to connect with people you aren’t able to meet in person due to restrictions. Like everyone else though I’m looking forward to being able to attend the Chamber events face-to-face when it is safe to do so.”