By Marcus Leach

BAA saw an overall softening in demand in October after seven months of continuous growth, reflecting weakness in wider economic conditions.

Passenger numbers at BAA airports fell by 1.3% during October 2011 compared with the same month the previous year. Domestic traffic fell by 9.9%, offset by increases in European scheduled and North Atlantic traffic of 1.2% and 1.1% respectively.

BAA’s Scottish airports saw passenger numbers up 2.1%. Aberdeen continued its recent strong performance with a 7.6% increase in passengers last month. Glasgow was up by 0.3% overall and recorded increases of 35% in European scheduled traffic and 47% in North Atlantic passengers.

Edinburgh continued its strong and resilient growth with passenger numbers up 1.8% compared to the same month the previous year. Passenger growth has been helped by nearly twenty new routes that have started operating at the airport since the beginning of the year.

At Heathrow, despite a drop of 1.3% in total passengers, its first monthly fall since December 2010, record traffic was seen over the school half-term period. There was a 17% decline in passengers on domestic routes which closely matched a 16% drop in the number of seats offered on these routes by airlines. Excluding the domestic market, Heathrow’s traffic increased marginally with European scheduled traffic up 1.7% and North Atlantic up 0.3%.

Stansted saw lower levels of capacity particularly on domestic routes which was the major factor accounting for a drop of 4.9% in total passengers. However, 81.8% of seats were filled on Stansted planes — a record for October. Southampton recorded a drop in passengers of 3%.

In total BAA’s airports recorded a drop of 0.8% in the total number of commercial aircraft movements handled despite an increase of 0.5% at Heathrow, which produced another monthly record of aircraft movements. Cargo volumes were impacted by disruption experienced amongst cargo operators, which contributed to a 7.5% decline in cargo tonnage passing through BAA airports during October.

“Edinburgh Airport has shown itself to be a strong and resilient asset throughout the economic downturn with passenger numbers growing by more than 8% this year," BAA Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, said.

“The reduction in passengers at Heathrow is indicative of the softening in the global economy. We remain cautious about predicting growth in the coming months.”

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