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News & Advice

UK air passenger numbers climb


A comparatively trouble-free year led to passenger numbers increasing at UK airports in 2011, it was announced today.

The airports handled 219 million passengers last year - 4.1% more than in 2010, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

The rise followed three years of falling numbers, but the CAA pointed out that 2010's figures had been affected by volcanic ash, snow and industrial action.

It added that without the recovery from the events of 2010, the increase last year would have been below 1%.

Last year, Heathrow handled a record 69 million passengers - 6% more than in 2010. Luton had a 9% rise, London City was up 8% and Gatwick numbers rose 7%. But Stansted recorded a 3% dip.

Together, the London airports (including Southend) handled 134 million passengers - 5% more than in 2010.

The rise at regional airports last year was lower, at 2.6%, although Manchester numbers rose 6% to 19 million.

The majority of passengers (130 million out of 219 million) were bound for, or arriving from, Europe, which represented a 6.4% rise on the 2010 figure.

Spanish traffic rose 8% while the biggest fall was to and from Turkey (down 4%).

Last year, 20 million passengers took UK domestic flights - just 0.4% fewer than in 2010, while passengers on flights to and from North America rose 6.2% to 20 million.

Flights to destinations outside Europe and North America fell 1.1% after being affected by conflict in parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Charter flight passenger numbers last year fell 3% to 22 million, in contrast to scheduled flight numbers which rose 5%.

A total of 56% of scheduled passengers at UK airports travelled on UK airlines, while 29% flew on other EU airlines.

Between 2010 and 2011, scheduled passengers carried by UK airlines to and from the UK grew by 7.8%, whereas EU airlines carried just 0.4% more.

CAA's regulatory policy director, Iain Osborne, said: "Our statistics show that although the numbers of people using UK airports rose in 2011, once we take account of how tough 2010 was for aviation, that rise was very slight indeed.

"The outlook remains uncertain, with serious risks for the UK and European economies. The aviation industry will once again be forced to work hard to maintain choice, value and high service standards, even during tough times."