Festive getaway boosts airports and Le Shuttle

Marion Dakers
HEATHROW and Gatwick ended their busiest ever years on a high, with rising passenger numbers in December, while the Eurotunnel also enjoyed a bumper Christmas.

Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport by passenger numbers, yesterday said traffic was up 2.8 per cent to 5.8m passengers in December, taking its total growth for the year to 3.4 per cent, or a record 72.3m passengers.

Airlines that are shifting towards larger planes were partly responsible for the rise at Heathrow, whose two runways are effectively full. Seats per aircraft rose 3.7 per cent over the year to 154.8.

The total number of planes taking off or landing at the airport fell 2.3 per cent in December and 0.4 per cent over the year. The figure includes freight flights, which have remained subdued since the recession.

Gatwick, meanwhile, said 4.8 per cent more passengers travelled through the airport in December. Of these 2.4m customers, 1.4m travelled to Europe and 286,000 were booked on domestic flights.

The increase came despite massive disruption following flooding on Christmas Eve, which led to the closure of one terminal and thousands of stranded passengers.

The airport has offered £100 gift vouchers to those affected and started an internal review of what went wrong.

For the year Gatwick’s passenger traffic rose 3.6 per cent to 35.4m – overtaking the record of 35.2m set in 2007.

Both airports have been shortlisted by the government’s aviation commission as possible options for a new runway, with a final recommendation due next year.

And Eurotunnel said it had seen its busiest Christmas period ever, with 210,000 passenger vehicles using Le Shuttle between Friday 13 December and Sunday 5 January.

The rail service carried almost 1,400 cats and dogs on Saturday 4 January – the most Le Shuttle had ever carried in a single day.