Stansted: Airport sees passenger numbers fall 7.2% in July

THE number of passengers using Stansted Airport in July was 7.2% down on the same month a year ago, owner BAA said yesterday.

The decline in numbers, to 1.879million, contrasted with increases at the group’s five other UK airports, including 2.5% growth at Heathrow which handled a record 6.873million passengers during the month.

Stansted, which BAA has been ordered by the Competition Commission to sell, has been badly hit by the impact of the recession and the subsequent squeeze on consumer incomes on budget airlines which represent a large part of its traffic.

Last month’s fall sent the airport’s figure for 2011 so far back into negative territory, with the year-to-date figure of 10.422million being 1.2% down on the first seven months of last year.

At the half-year stage, to the end of June, the figure was 0.2% up on 2010, thanks to a 26.2% increase in April – boosted by a string of one-off factors including last year’s Icelandic ash cloud, the later timing of Easter this year and the Royal Wedding – and a further 0.7% increase in May.

The back-to-back increases represented the first consecutive monthly improvements in numbers at Stansted since October 2007, but last month’s figure indicates an accelerating rate of decline following a 3.3% fall in June.

One positive for the airport last month, however, was a record load factor (the percentage of aircraft seats filled) of 88.5%, as carriers continued to tailor capacity to the reduced level of demand.

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Heathrow’s record monthly total included its busiest ever day, on Sunday, July 31, and its load factor of 84.7% was also a new record.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said: “The growth in passenger traffic at Heathrow in July is good news for UK jobs, tourism and growth. Heathrow’s unique role in linking the UK to the world’s emerging markets is vital to Britain’s economic recovery.”

Elsewhere, Southampton airport returned to growth with a 2.4% increase while numbers at BAA’s three Scottish airports, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, were up 8.7%, 3.3% and 0.5% respectively.

By destination, the strongest market was North America, with numbers up 5.6%. Other long-haul routes recorded an increase of 3.9% and European scheduled services rose by 0.9% but there was a 7.2% drop in domestic traffic.