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BAA shares fell 5 per cent after the owner of seven British airports said that American passengers were afraid to travel to Europe in May because of the Kosovo crisis.

The company said the number of passengers passing through airports including Heathrow, the world's busiest, and Gatwick rose only 2.9 per cent last month, lagging BAA's annual average rise in passenger traffic of 3.2 per cent.

"The monthly figure looks a bit disappointing, but you can't read a trend into it," said analyst Andrew Darke.

BAA also claimed that the timing of school half-term holidays, coming in late May instead of early June, skewed the figures.