BAA boosted as passenger numbers rise

AIRPORTS operator BAA yesterday reported its first rise in domestic passenger traffic in two years after the upturn in the economy encouraged people to take to the skies again.

The number of people flying between British destinations grew 1.1 per cent to 1.35m in February, according to BAA. BAA also said its six British airports had a 2.4 per cent rise in passengers — to 7.13m — last month compared with 2009. Heathrow passenger numbers rose 5.3 per cent.

Long haul traffic rose by four per cent overall with services to China up 6.8 per cent, the Middle East 11.1 per cent and South America soaring by 17.6 per cent.

Despite the upswing in the economy, not all BAA’s airports returned to growth. Stansted’s traffic dipped by 4.5 per cent compared to last February.

Glasgow and Aberdeen were down five per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively while Edinburgh climbed 3.5 per cent.

There was also a 23.2 per cent increase in the tonnage of cargo handled across the airports.

The increase in domestic flights was partly due to snow affecting flights in 2009.

And BAA chief executive officer Colin Matthews warned yesterday that conditions were still tough.

He said: “Heathrow remains resilient and other airports are beginning to see encouraging signs.

“However traffic remains depressed, reflecting tough conditions in the economy generally and in aviation specifically.”

Gatwick, which BAA sold in December for £1.5bn, reported a 3.2 per cent increase in passenger numbers to two million. The airport said the biggest jump in passenger numbers during February was to European destinations, with a 10.5 per cent rise.