Millions head abroad for Christmas

Nearly four million Britons will head overseas over the Christmas and new year period, travel organisation Abta said today.

Those seeking sun are heading for such destinations as Spain, Dubai, Turkey and Florida.

The European ski season has started early and Geneva is the most popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Top city-break destinations include Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Dublin, New York and Sydney.

Abta said the busiest pre-Christmas days for travel will be tomorrow and next Thursday.

Around 1.5 million travellers will be leaving from Heathrow airport over the Christmas and new year period, with 700,000 flying from Gatwick, 370,000 from Stansted, 323,000 from Manchester, 250,000 from Luton, 138,000 from Birmingham and 70,000 from Newcastle.

Also, 145,000 will depart from Edinburgh airport, 101,000 from Glasgow and 48,000 from Aberdeen.

Monarch Airlines is flying 200,000 people abroad from tomorrow until Sunday January 9 - a 20% increase over the 2009/10 festive period.

Monarch's most popular destinations this Christmas are Tenerife, Alicante on Spain's Costa Blanca, and Malaga in southern Spain.

More than 200,000 will travel across the Channel or through the Channel Tunnel and a further 225,000 will use high-speed Eurostar trains on services between London and Paris and Brussels.

Abta chairman John McEwan said: "Christmas is traditionally the busiest time of year for the travel industry and I am delighted to see that so many of our customers are taking this opportunity to head off on holiday and to visit friends and family, both in the UK and overseas."

On the railways, Virgin Trains, which runs services on the London to Scotland West Coast line, said its pre-Christmas sales were 11% up on last year, with tomorrow expected to be its busiest day for travel.