Business fliers boost air passenger numbers

A rise in business passengers boosted the number of air travellers passing through BAA's six UK airports last month, it was announced today.

The six airports handled 9.75 million passengers in October 2010 - a 3.4% increase on the October 2009 figure.

Heathrow numbers rose 7.2% last month to just under 6.01 million, while Edinburgh was up 3.5% and Southampton rose 1.0%.

Glasgow numbers were down 7.4%, while Aberdeen fell 5.0% and Stansted, where holiday flights were down, dipped 3.1%.

Long-haul trips between Heathrow and China and Hong Kong rose 16.1% last month compared with October 2009, while long-haul journeys between all six BAA airports and North America increased 7.5%.

There was a 10.6% rise last month in Heathrow's European travel, with Geneva traffic rising almost 60%, Milan up more than 30%, Moscow up 27.5% and Berlin up 25.6%.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Passenger growth is good for the economy with thousands of people across the country employed in aviation, international trade and tourism.

"We are continuing with our £5 billion Heathrow investment programme - the biggest private investment project in the UK - providing thousands of jobs as we modernise facilities to improve everyone's experience of the airport.

"The continued strength of Heathrow reflects an upturn in global economic activity. Low sterling and interest rates make the UK a competitive place to do business.

"However, Government spending cuts, a sharp increase in air passenger duty and an imminent VAT rise are weakening the prospects for inbound tourism and British leisure travel."

Gatwick also announced its latest passenger figures today, with the number of people passing through the West Sussex airport rising 0.8% to 2.85 million.

Although Gatwick's European charter traffic dipped 12.3% last month compared with October 2009, the number of people flying on European scheduled services rose 4.2%, with North Atlantic traffic increasing 9.7%.