Inverness airport is located seven miles away from the city and is known by locals as the Dalcross site. As a destination it is the ideal way for travellers to gain access to this brilliant city and the magnificent highland region. As it is located so far north it is frequently used y tourists hoping to explore this unique and rugged region; subsequently many services offering coach tours and car hire have been placed inside Inverness Airport in order to provide tourists with a means of onward travel. The site however is not purely a gateway or tourists; it also plays an important role in keeping the Scottish islands connected with the mainland.
Ownership of the site falls with the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited Company. This company is not one of the major players in the UK air travel industry but does have an acute responsibility to service and maintain many of the airports located in the Scottish archipelago. Last year it is believed that over seven hundred thousand passengers passed through Inverness airport, the majority of which flew to destinations in the Hebrides; despite this, the use of coaches and car hire services to explore Inverness and the Highlands are still extremely popular with travellers.
As with many airports in the UK, the origins of Inverness can be traced with the military throughout the Second World War It was not until two years after the war ended that the site was utilised for civilian purposes. British European Airways, one of the precursors to British Airways were the first to use the site, setting up a route between Heathrow and Inverness. At this point in time however the costs of air travel were still huge in comparison to trains and coaches and hence the route was discontinued after poor returns were experienced. Even so, a second company, Dan-Air started routes to Manchester and Gatwick although sadly, these were also discontinued for the same reason.
BA bought out Dan-Air in 1992 and once again ran a route from Gatwick to Inverness Airport up until 1997; once again however, this route was discontinued for similar reasons to the previous two operations. This period however saw the saviour of Inverness arise; the growth of the budget airline. To the applause of locals routes to domestic destinations were once again started and even improved to sites in Europe. The European routes however failed to be truly profitable and once again it is the popularity of the London route that has been evident; mainly for residents flying to onward destinations and tourists heading north to hire a car and then tour the north of Scotland.
The purpose of Inverness airport however is not supply residents with a gateway to destinations all over the world, instead its primary function is to give islanders a link with the mainland. As a result of this purpose, the site sees many flight movements involving small to mid size aircraft that fly to a variety of Hebridean Islands. In addition to this role as a hub for the islands, Inverness Airport plays an important part in ensuring islanders receive post and supplies as well as ensuring an emergency flying paramedic service is maintained. Understandably to islanders the importance of Inverness Airport, its shops, restaurants and car hire desks is assured.
While Inverness Airport may not have had the brightest of pasts, it is assured a place in the air transportation network of the UK as major hub to the islands of the Hebrides. It is important to realise that it is both an excellent link to the north of Scotland and a vital life line for islanders.
Air Travel expert Thomas Pretty studies how car hire Inverness Airport services are important to the sustainability of the site.