Airports group hails long-haul growth

PASSENGER numbers at Stansted Airport declined again last month as the leisure travel market remained under pressure, owner BAA said yesterday.

But the airports group posted a 3.4% increase in numbers overall, with Heathrow boosted by a recovery in the level of business travel.

Numbers at Stansted fell by 3.1% last month compared with October last year to 1.720million.

It means that the airport’s rolling annual total is now down by 6.0% compared with the previous 12 months, at 18.812million.

However, the rate of decline is easing, with last month’s fall comparing with an overall 6.6% decline for the first 10 months of 2010 combined.

At Heathrow, the passenger total grew by 6.0% last month to 40.741 million. Edinburgh and Southampton also posted increases, of 3.5% and 1.0% respectively but numbers declined at Glasgow, by 7.4%, and Aberdeen, by 5.0%.

BAA’s overall UK passenger total grew by 3.4% compared with October last year to 9.754million, while total cargo tonnage was up by 12.5%. The increase at Heathrow included a 10.6% rise in European travel and 7.5% growth on long-haul trips to North America.

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Long-haul trips between Heathrow and China increased by 16.1%, which BAA said had been achieved despite capacity limitations allowing only two Chinese destinations to be served, compared with three from Paris, four from Frankfurt and five from Amsterdam.

However, BAA said that such routes may be affected by the Government’s increase in Air Passenger Duty which came into effect last week.

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

“The continued strength of Heathrow reflects an upturn in global economic activity. Low sterling and interest rates makes 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 of in-bound tourism and British leisure travel,” added Mr Matthews.