Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 10:36 UK

Heathrow enjoys passenger pick-up

Heathrow airport
BAA currently owns seven airports in the UK

Heathrow enjoyed its third-busiest month on record in July, owner BAA said, giving a boost to the struggling airline industry.

The airport, the UK's largest, saw passenger numbers of 6.48 million, up 0.9% from the year before.

BAA said that the recent decline in passenger numbers had stabilised in July across its seven airports.

A pick up in long-haul traffic helped it carry 14.5 million passengers, down 2.4% from July 2008.

However, this was an improvement on the year-on-year decrease of 5.9% seen in June and 7.3% in May.

European scheduled travel was up 1.2%, but passenger numbers between the UK and the US and Canada slipped by 8%. UK domestic traffic was 4.8% lower and European charters fell 18.6%. Non-Atlantic long-haul travel grew by 4.8%.

The growth in traveller numbers at Heathrow was part of a trend of improved figures at the airport, BAA said.

A spokesman added it had benefitted from an increase in passengers at British Airways.

Because Heathrow is the UK's only hub airport, it has shown some resilience in the downturn, as passengers continued to fly into the airport before connecting to other destinations.

Sale delay

Airlines have been trimming their schedules to cope with falling demand during the recession, and this has led to a 5.1% decline in the overall number of planes leaving and arriving at BAA's airports from a year earlier.

However, at Heathrow, this reduction in flights, combined with an increase in passengers meant that airport saw its highest figure on record for the average number of passengers per plane - at 162.

BAA has been ordered by the Competition Commission to sell three airports - Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport.

It also owns Aberdeen and Southampton airports as well as Heathrow.

Last month, it said it was in no hurry to sell Gatwick as it did not need the revenue to meet a £1bn debt payment.

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