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Heathrow and Gatwick report record passenger numbers

A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 passenger jet Image copyright PA

Rival airports Heathrow and Gatwick - both vying to be the site of a new runway - have reported record passenger numbers for March.

Gatwick said passenger numbers stood at 3 million in the month, a 9.2% rise on the same month a year ago.

Heathrow airport also reported a record 5.95 million passengers in March, a 3.4% rise on a year earlier.

Both airports are awaiting the outcome of the Airports Commission review of airport capacity in the south east.

The Commission says there is a need for an additional airport runway in the south east by 2030. It is expected to release the findings of its work after the general election.

It has shortlisted three proposals:

  • A third runway at Heathrow
  • Lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow
  • A second runway at Gatwick

Gatwick said it now expects to serve more than 40 million passengers next year, more than a decade ahead of the Department for Transport's (DfT) 2013 forecast.

It added 250,000 more passengers travelled through Gatwick in March compared with 2014. It said passenger growth was the result of more air traffic movements per hour and larger aircraft being used on average across the airlines.

Long-haul traffic grew by 7.4%, Gatwick said, with Dubai the biggest growth route seeing passenger numbers increase by 14.7%.

European scheduled services increased by 12.1%, the airport added, with Barcelona the biggest growth destination and Geneva the biggest destination in terms of passenger numbers across the whole network.

Meanwhile, Heathrow reported a 26.5% rise in passengers to Mexico in March. It said passenger numbers were up 20.2% to China and the Middle East & Central Asia saw an increase of 7.6% in the month.

Passenger numbers to North America were up 6% in March compared with the same month a year ago.

Gatwick chief executive Stuart Wingate told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the airport's latest passenger numbers proved its case for a second runway.

"Already we find ourselves as the world's busiest single runway airport by some margin," Mr Wingate said.

"Gatwick is approaching being full and Heathrow is full," Mr Wingate said.

He added: "We need to choose a runway solution that is deliverable. Gatwick is the only option that is deliverable."

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