* BAA Airports report continued growth.
* Heathrow traffic up 2.3%, though external events make year-on-year comparisons difficult
* Significant growth on BRIC routes (Brazil up 29%)
* All three Scottish airports report growth
* BAA’s six airports recorded 8.3 million passengers in March (up 0.9%)
* BAA’s six airports handled 8.3 million passengers in March, an increase of 0.9% compared to the same month last year. Heathrow’s traffic grew by 2.3%
Each of the group’s Scottish airports continued recent improvements. Glasgow’s traffic was up by 2.4% in total but by 10.5% on European services. Edinburgh was up 7.2% overall but by 20.8% on European routes. Aberdeen recorded a 8.6% gain. Traffic at Stansted and Southampton declined 7.4% and 8.7% respectively, affecting overall group performance.
Heathrow and the Scottish airports showed a marked improvement on March 2010 when traffic volumes were affected by industrial action at British Airways. Conversely, the timing of Easter last year (2-5 April) has affected comparisons as pre-Easter traffic should shift to April this year. Given the industrial action at British Airways between March and May 2010, the potential impact on travel patterns of the Royal Wedding in late April 2011, the volcanic ash disruption in April 2010 and the likely impact of the later Easter on traffic in March and April of this year, it may only be at the end of May that an accurate picture of underlying performance emerges for the year to date.
Across BAA, European scheduled traffic grew most strongly in March (up 2.8%) and domestic traffic also increased (up 1.5%), as did North Atlantic traffic (up 0.2%). Other long haul routes fell slightly overall (down 1.3%) although services to India and mainland China from Heathrow – the only UK airport with direct flights to the main business cities in both countries – grew by 8.4% and 9.0% respectively. Travel to Brazil, another important BRIC economy, was up 29% year on year whilst Russia saw a 10% increase.
For the group as a whole air transport movements were 4.4% ahead of last year’s level, with Heathrow up by 7.5%, largely as a result of comparison with the strike-affected March 2010. Cargo tonnage at BAA airports was down by 1.4% in March, with Heathrow 1.9% lower.
Business commentary and outlook
Heathrow’s performance reflects the wide range and high frequency of services from the country’s only hub airport. The valuable trading connections to India and mainland China continue to see strong growth, which suggests improving economic circumstances and the increasing importance of these economies.
Whilst the political unrest in Middle East and North Africa and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan were in the news, Heathrow’s growth was only affected by these events to a limited degree, as traffic between Heathrow and these areas is relatively low in the context of the airport’s overall traffic volumes.
In Scotland, passengers continue to return after the economic downturn at BAA’s three airports as new routes are added. Jet2.com opened its new base at Glasgow airport on March 31.
Low-cost carriers continue to move aircraft from the UK to other markets in continental Europe, and this continues to affect traffic at Stansted, although the airport is well placed to benefit from any uplift in the economy and the return of discretionary travel lost during the recession.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said:
“Heathrow’s performance is solid, and the growth in traffic at our Scottish airports is encouraging.
“In the UK, consumer confidence remains fragile, affecting airports up and down the country. Continued rises in the price of oil are a concern for airlines and passengers in all our markets.
“While Stansted and Southampton’s traffic performance remains disappointing, both are well placed to benefit from an upturn in leisure travel as the economy improves.”