Bomb attacks hit traffic levels at London's airports

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The bombings in London last month deterred domestic travellers from flying to the capital, BAA said yesterday.

Passenger volumes through Heathrow were down 0.6 per cent in July, while traffic at Gatwick and Stansted also showed signs of slower growth than BAA had anticipated.

Across BAA's airports, passenger figures for July were up only 2.6 per cent, the slowest monthly growth in two years, with the group saying volumes were impaired by the bombings. A spokeswoman for BAA said: "We can't quantify the impact exactly and we do not think it was significant. But there was evidence that there was some decline in domestic traffic into London. Some people postponed business meetings, or travelled by train, or had conference calls rather than flying into London."

Domestic air travel rose just 1.4 per cent compared with July 2004. This growth has slowed sharply since June this year, when BAA was enjoying 4 per cent growth in domestic travel. But even with the effects of the bombings, BAA traffic figures were at a new high, with 14.6 million passengers using its seven UK airports. That made last month BAA's busiest July on record.

Holidaymakers on long-haul flights were not put off by the bombings on London's Underground network on 7 July. "People who were travelling overseas on holidays to long-haul destinations did not forego their travel plans," BAA said.

Traffic to and from North America rose 1 per cent, while other long-haul passenger numbers were up 7.5 per cent. Travel between the UK and Ireland increased 8 per cent, and traffic to European Charter markets continued to decline, falling 5.5 per cent.

Southampton had the biggest rise in traffic, after the arrival of the low-cost carrier, Flybe, to the airport. The airline has increased the number of take-offs and landings at the airport by a quarter compared with July 2004, and passenger numbers rose 30 per cent.

BAA blamed most of the decline at Heathrow on a lack of capacity at the airport, saying it was unable to accommodate any more passengers. The company is spending £4.2bn on a fifth terminal at Heathrow.

BAA forecasts the passenger count at its London airports will slow to an average of 3 percent over the next decade without increased capacity.

Shares in BAA fell 3p to 608.5p yesterday.