By Daniel Hunter

London Gatwick served over 2.5 million passengers during March, up by 2.5% on the prior year and the highest traffic figures seen in March for five years, with the sustained cold weather and the earlier start to the Easter getaway contributing to the growth in traffic this month.

There was 5.1% growth in traffic to long haul markets with 27,800 more passengers travelling to destinations across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Following several months of decline, European scheduled traffic was up 1.9% (25,400 more passengers) and European charter traffic was up 3.9% (9,400 more passengers).

Gatwick’s load factors, which show how full the average flight was, reached a record for the month at 83.1% - up 3.2% on the prior year. Historically, load factors at this level have not been seen outside of the busy summer season.

In spite of continuing tough economic conditions, full year traffic grew by 1.2% taking the total number of passengers handled by Gatwick in 2012-13 to 34.2 million passengers — up from 33.8 million in the prior year.

Growth was achieved through:

- Incumbent airlines such as easyJet, British Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle growing frequencies on existing routes and with higher load factors.

- New airlines operating out of Gatwick including Air China, Air Arabia Maroc, Iraqi Airways, Icelandair, WOW Air, Caribbean Airlines, Vueling and Gambia Bird.

- New routes being opened, including easyJet flying to Moscow, Norwegian Air Shuttle opening the first of 12 new routes, and British Airways increasing its services in Europe and the Caribbean.

“This year Gatwick has continued to compete with other London airports in attracting more passengers, new airlines and new routes," Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s Chief Executive, said.

"Through our continuing investment in the airport and relentless focus on improving the passenger experience we have seen traffic figures rise despite the backdrop of tough economic conditions at home and abroad.

"We have seen existing airlines like easyJet, British Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle grow and new airlines arrive, opening up even more choice and connectivity for passengers."

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