Numbers take off at London airports

Full-to-capacity Heathrow saw airlines using bigger jets to fly more passengers

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Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports saw record passengers travelling through their arrivals and departures lounges last year, with the former packing in 73.4 million fliers during the 12 months.

That was up 1.4 per cent on 2013’s level, as full-to-capacity Heathrow saw airlines using bigger jets to fly more passengers. It comes as the two London airports battle to secure Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission’s recommendation on where to build another runway in the South-east.

Gatwick, which only has only one runway to Heathrow’s two, saw more than 38 million passengers in 2014 – an increase of 7.6 per cent.

Its finance director Nick Dunn said: “Gatwick’s record-breaking figures show an airport serving the widest range of travel and airline models – exactly what is needed from the decision about the UK’s next runway.

“Expand Heathrow and we take a backwards step towards higher fares, less choice and the monopolies of the past.”

But the airport faced a blow when incumbent carrier Vietnam Airlines said it was moving from Gatwick to Heathrow. Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that move “underlines that airlines can only make flights to many long-haul destinations viable from a hub airport like Heathrow”.

Its traffic last year saw a surge from Latin America – up by 6.3 per cent – while East Asia was up 5.2 per cent and the Middle East and Central Asia rose by 3.5 per cent.