Heathrow navigates downturn

Heathrow navigates downturn

Heathrow reported its third-busiest month of traffic on record in July, as a rise in consumer confidence coupled with a damp summer led to a surge in late bookings.

Almost 6.5m passengers passed through the UK’s largest airport last month, an increase of 0.9% compared to July 2008, and its busiest month since July 2006.

The 5.5% increase in long-haul flights came despite a 3% reduction in flights, whilst the average number of passengers per aircraft was a record 162.

The latest figures will come as a boost to BAA, who also own Gatwick, Stansted and Southampton, as well as Naples airport and three airports in Scotland.

Two weeks ago it announced first-half pre-tax losses of £545.7m, and has net debt of £11.3bn, a £1bn repayment of which is due next March.

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The strength of the Heathrow traffic is also likely to help in its ongoing negotiations for the disposal of Gatwick.

A spokesman for BAA said: “Heathrow’s traffic has been gradually stabilising since last year. If you look at the trend, it’s not a huge surprise.”

However performance at BAA’s six other UK airports suggested a recovery in the sector has yet to materialise.

Passenger numbers fell 2.4 percent year-on-year in July, from 14.8m to 14.5m, across all of BAA’s UK airports.

Traffic fell 4.8 percent at Gatwick, 12.9 percent at Glasgow, and 5.7 percent at Stansted, where Ryanair’s decision to cut services in the face of falling demand had a significant impact.