Heathrow at its busiest thanks to new markets

Marion Dakers
MORE THAN 70m people travelled through Heathrow in the last year, the airport’s busiest ever, according to figures from owner BAA out yesterday.

Traffic at Britain’s busiest airport was up six per cent in the year to March, which BAA credited to the soaring popularity of its routes to newer markets such as China.

Its flights to and from Brazil enjoyed a 62.3 per cent jump in traffic in March compared to a year ago.

Heathrow’s figures were also helped by Easter falling early this year, meaning some holidaymakers chose to travel in March rather than April.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said reaching 70m annual passengers is “a major milestone” for the hub, “demonstrating the resilience of the airport in an otherwise challenging economic environment”.

But he warned that Heathrow is now operating at 99.2 per cent capacity, making it difficult to introduce more routes to popular destinations.

British Airways parent IAG recently snapped up smaller carrier BMI in order to take over its lucrative landing slots at the airport.

At Stansted, BAA’s other London airport, traffic fell 4.7 per cent to 1.3m passengers in March and 2.5 per cent to 17.8m in the year.

BAA has been ordered to put Stansted and Edinburgh up for sale after losing a competition appeal in February.

Across all of BAA’s six airports, which include Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton, long-haul traffic rose 5.2 per cent in March compared to last year.

This rise came at the expense of domestic flights, which saw traffic drop 2.6 per cent to 1.49m passengers last month.