Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

TRANSPORT Heathrow climbs to fourth in passenger league table

Only three airports in the world are handling more passengers than Heathrow, latest figures reveal. And a 7.9 per cent rise, to 24.1 million passenger numbers in 1996, pushed Gatwick Airport into the top 30 of world airports, says a report in Airline Business magazine.

Heathrow Airport, west London, handled 55.7 million passengers in 1996. This was a 3 per cent rise on the 1995 figure and enabled Heathrow to nose ahead of Dallas-Fort Worth, in Texas, in the table of leading airports based on passenger numbers.

Top of the table was Chicago's O'Hare airport, which handled 69.1 million passengers. Second was Atlanta, Georgia, which enjoyed a 9.7 per cent rise to 69.3 million passengers. Los Angeles airport, with 58.0 passengers, was third.

Business class air fares for Britons jumped 8 per cent in the first three months of 1997 and have risen 20 per cent over two years - the highest increase in Europe. But UK economy fares have risen only 5 per cent in the last two years and are significantly cheaper than anywhere else in Europe, according to an American Express European business travel index.