Leaders at Scottish airports set out the scale of the decrease in passengers as they spoke to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday.
Brian McClean, director of communications and sustainability at AGS Airports, said there had been millions fewer passengers going through his company’s airports in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
This has absolutely set us back decades when it comes to loss of passengers and loss of connectivity
He told the committee: “Aberdeen Airport carried about three million passengers in 2019.
“Last year, we finished about 1.1 million passengers.
“Glasgow Airport, we carried just below nine million passengers in 2019.
“We finished around two million last year. The last time we carried two million passengers was in 1973.
“So this has absolutely set us back decades when it comes to loss of passengers and loss of connectivity.”
Coronavirus restrictions had been overly complex and changed too often, leading to a collapse in passenger confidence, he said.
Reports of a spike in airline travel last weekend showed there was a “pent-up demand”, he said.
Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport said the industry had been on a “rollercoaster ride” and had been “legislated out of business”.
He said: “At the bottom of the curve, we were down at less than 1% of pre-pandemic levels of demand, which is actually worse than being closed – all the costs of being open but very little revenue to support that.”
Mr Dewar also criticised the Scottish Government’s provision of a loan to Glasgow Prestwick Airport, saying it “fundamentally skews what should be a competitive and fair playing field”.