Airline cut-backs hit numbers at Stansted

CUTS in services by airlines operating out of Stansted saw the decline in passenger numbers at the Essex airport accelerate last month.

Owner BAA, which is fighting a Competition Commission (CC) ruling that it must sell the airport to increase competition in the sector, said yesterday that Stansted handled 1.704million passengers in September, down 4.0% on the same month last year.

The figure compares with a fall of 2.1% in numbers at Stansted for 2011 so far and a decline of 3.2% over the past 12 months.

BAA said that last month’s fall reflected “planned cuts in services” at Stansted, but added that the airport had achieved its highest-ever September load factor (the percentage of seats filled on flights) of 82.9%.

Across its six UK airports, BAA said passenger numbers were up 1.0% last month at 10.086million, including 1.4% growth at Heathrow while numbers at Southampton were 0.7% up on September 2010.

Among the group’s Scottish airports, Edinburgh and Glasgow – one of which BAA has also been ordered to sell – achieved growth of 3.0% and 3.2% respectively while numbers at Aberdeen were 11.3% ahead.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Passenger numbers rose in September, with stronger growth across the group than in July and August.” But he added: “Slightly softer Heathrow traffic in the latter part of September, vigilance in the near term from individual carriers and problems facing the European economy make us cautious about predicting traffic growth trends in the coming months.”

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The CC originally ordered BAA to sell Stansted before its disposal of either Edinburgh or Glasgow but, with the group planning a legal challenge in a bid to retain Stansted, the commission last week ruled that the Scottish sale should go ahead first.