Heathrow’s traffic rises as BMI takeover brings bigger planes

Marion Dakers

PASSENGER numbers at Heathrow hit a new record in February, it said yesterday, after British Airways’ takeover of BMI led to larger planes operating out of the airport.

Traffic rose one per cent on a year ago to 4.85m passengers, despite last February containing an extra leap day, thanks in part to BA using larger planes in the slots taken up by regional carrier BMI.

Heathrow, controlled by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, said its load factor – a measure of how full flights were – rose 2.4 percentage points to 69.6 per cent.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said: “This month’s figures reflect larger, fuller aircraft being used at Heathrow, not the addition of new routes to emerging economies which are so vital to UK trade, jobs and economic growth.”

Meanwhile Stansted, which was taken over by Manchester Airports Group last month, said its passenger numbers were flat on a year ago at 1.1m.

And Gatwick traffic fell 0.7 per cent to 2.14m passengers, though the airport said that excluding the extra day last year, volumes rose 2.2 per cent.

Long-haul traffic outside the US rose 1.9 per cent, and new routes to Indonesia and Iraq this year are set to further lift growth.

“While economic conditions continue to be challenging in Europe, it is positive that Gatwick is succeeding in developing direct air links to the world’s fastest growing economies, which are vital to the success of the UK economy,” said chief financial officer Nick Dunn.