Passenger numbers at UK airports saw the sharpest drop since the Second World War last year, according to the latest figures from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
UK airports handled 218 million passengers during the 2009 calendar year, down from 235 million the previous year.
The decline was more marked in the first quarter of the year, with a drop of 12.5 per cent over the same period in 2008, confirmed the CAA.
Later in the year, the rate of decline eased with numbers in the last quarter of 2009 down only 3.8 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2008 – suggesting the situation may improve moving into 2010.
Furthermore, some segments of demand were already showing growth in the latter part of 2009.
Passengers travelling to and from international destinations other than geographical Europe and North America grew by four per cent in the second half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.
Other data, also published today by the CAA, suggests the weakening of the pound has reduced demand for Eurozone holidays from UK residents, an effect only partially offset by an increase in holiday travel to the UK by Eurozone residents.
Last week BAA confirmed traffic at all but one its UK airports had fallen over the last year.
Commenting on the numbers CAA director of economic regulation, Harry Bush, said: “Today’s figures show the biggest fall in passenger numbers since the second world war, highlighting the enormous impact the recession has had on the aviation industry.
“Passenger numbers are now back to the level they were six years ago and, although they will certainly rebound, the pace of recovery is uncertain and it could be a number of years before they reach their peak level again.”
Around the Regions
Regional airports were proportionately more affected than London airports over the last year, according to the CAA.
At the London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City - the fall in passenger numbers was a modest 4.9 per cent, with the largest declines in percentage terms at London City (14.2 per cent), Stansted (10.7 per cent) and Luton (10.4 per cent).
At the regional airports - those other than the London airports - traffic contracted by 10.7 per cent - to 88 million passengers.
Manchester airport, the largest regional airport, saw passenger numbers fall by 11.5 per cent (2.4 million), whereas at Birmingham airport they fell by five per cent (483,000).