By Daniel Hunter
8.6 million passengers travelled through BAA’s airports in March, a rise of 4.0% on the previous year.
This increase was helped by Easter being earlier this year, with a substantial proportion of pre-Easter traffic falling in March rather than in April last year.
Heathrow saw 5.7 million passengers pass through its terminals, a rise of 6.9% on March 2011. That increase means Heathrow saw more than 70 million passengers over a twelve month period for the first time. It passed the 60 million mark in 1998.
Heathrow’s performance was particularly notable for the 4.2 percentage point increase in load factors, to 73.4% compared to March last year. This continues an upward trend over the course of the past year and was also helped by the earlier Easter.
Year on year, cargo at Heathrow was virtually identical, and up slightly at 0.1% across the group.
In Scotland, Glasgow recorded a 4.6% increase while Aberdeen maintained its recent impressive growth, achieving a double digit increase of 10.2% which reflected the rise in domestic oil related traffic. Stansted, Edinburgh and Southampton were down 4.7%, 2.8% and 1.7% respectively, with reductions in domestic traffic being one of the key drivers of the declines at Edinburgh and Southampton.
North Atlantic traffic was up 13.6% with other long haul traffic up 5.2%. The group’s biggest market, European scheduled traffic, was up 3.2%. European Charter traffic had strong results across individual airports due to the strong ski season in Europe.
Traffic from Heathrow to the BRIC countries saw growth compared with March last year, with an increase of 62.3% in traffic to and from Brazil.
"Reaching 70 million passengers at Heathrow is a major milestone, demonstrating the resilience of the airport in an otherwise challenging economic environment," BAA Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, said.
"Increases in load factors drove this; however Heathrow continues to operate at 99.2% capacity - placing constraints on airlines’ ability to introduce new flights to the emerging economies which are so vital to UK economic growth."
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