Heathrow has busiest August on record

Heathrow enjoyed its busiest August on record as holidaymakers defied the recession and flights to India increased 19%, BAA said today.

Heathrow handled 6.4 million passengers last month, an increase of 0.3% on last year driven by strong leisure travel and its position in the international route network.

BAA said that Heathrow had also benefited as the only London airport to offer flights to India, as UK businesses and communities “count on” it to visit friends and family.

But BAA warned that the west London airport would need business fliers – who have slashed overseas travel in the recession – to return to the market if growth was to continue.

Across its seven UK airports, BAA handled a total of 14.4 million passengers, a fall of 3.1% on the same month last year.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said conditions in the industry as a whole “remain difficult”.

“Heathrow’s traffic performance in July and August was good,” he said.

“A continuation of the improving trend at Heathrow depends on business travellers re-establishing face-to-face contact with global markets.”

Heathrow’s August performance took the total number of passengers it has handled so far this year to 44 million, down 2.6%.

BAA said Heathrow offered shorter waiting times for connecting flights because of the frequency of its services and this had caused the number of passengers transferring at the airport to rise.

Currency movements and the pound’s position against the euro and dollar also helped transfer business.

The group said there were signs of resurgence in European flights, with traffic up 0.4%, and long haul excluding North Atlantic travel rose 4%.

Meanwhile, flights across the North Atlantic remained depressed and were down 7.7% on last year, while domestic travel declined 5.9%.

Gatwick, with a fall of 4.6%, showed an improving trend compared with the 4.8% decline in July and 7.6% in June.

It was the only airport to register growth in its domestic market. This grew 1.2%, while its key European traffic was up 5.6%.

Edinburgh reaped the benefits of new low-cost scheduled services to Europe and reported a 4.8% increase in numbers, its fifth consecutive month of growth.

But Stansted reversed July’s improvement to slump 7.8%, largely because of the sharp capacity reductions instigated by its main low-cost carriers.

Glasgow was down 13.4% and Aberdeen fell 9.8% compared with last year.

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