By Adrian Bishop
The UK’s top four airports have all seen soaring passenger traffic in 2017 to new highs.
Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted all saw business take off to record-breaking levels.
London Heathrow passenger numbers rose 3.1% year-on-year to 78 million, boosted by larger and fuller aircraft.
In December alone, 6.2 million passengers used the Heathrow, an annual rise of 2.8%.
Domestic and emerging markets continued to be sources of growth, with UK travel up 6.6% and travel to Asia up 5.5% on last year
Heathrow Chief Executive Officer, John Holland-Kaye, says, “Heathrow had its best year ever in 2017 helping to strengthen the British economy as the country seeks to redefine its role in the world. Our colleagues welcomed 78 million passengers and supported the delivery of record volumes of British trade to markets around the world. We’re looking forward to continuing to deliver for Britain in 2018 as we progress our expansion plans.”
London Gatwick notched up a 5.2% increase in 2017 to 45.6 million passengers.
One of the main reasons was the growth in its long-haul flights, with new routes to Singapore, Seattle, Denver and Rwanda contributing to a 16% rise and adding almost one million more long distance passengers during the year.
In December 2017, 3.2 million passengers travelled, up 1.5% on a year earlier and making it Gatwick’s busiest December.
Gatwick Airport, Chief Executive Officer, Stewart Wingate, says 2017
was a great year for Gatwick “in which we delivered record passenger growth and an array of new long-haul routes, bringing our annual passenger total to 45.6 million and extending our long-haul network to 63 connections.
“Gatwick’s soaring long-haul and cargo growth in December is an impressive conclusion to 2017 and we’ll be strengthening the airport’s global connectivity even further this year, with new services to Buenos Aires, Austin and Chicago already confirmed to begin in the first quarter alone.
“This year, we’re also looking forward to British Airways’ biggest summer schedule at Gatwick for almost ten years, which will see 15 per cent more weekly BA flights than last summer.
“We have ambitious plans to build on the success achieved in 2017 and reach 50 million passengers per year and beyond, setting new standards for Gatwick and playing an increased global role for Britain.”
Manchester Airport attracted 8.5% more passengers in 2017 to reach 27.79 million.
The airport had its busiest ever December 2017 with 1,833,620 passengers jetting off – a 1.5% increase on a year ago.
New routes included San Francisco, Muscat, Boston, Riyadh, Granada and Seville.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, visited Manchester Airport in July to see work begin on its 10-year, £1billion transformation programme.
Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive Officer of Manchester Airport, says, “It’s been another strong year for Manchester Airport as passenger numbers continued to grow and we celebrated the launch of a number of key routes.
“The start of the building work for the Transformation programme was another key milestone for the airport. The project will allow us to unlock the full potential of our two runways and provide our passengers with a great customer experience. As we look ahead to 2018, we expect that passenger numbers will continue to grow and we’re looking forward to the launch of a new route to Seattle with Thomas Cook Airlines.”
London Stansted Airport welcomed 25.9 million passengers, up 1.57million (6.5%) during 2017.
It added 11 new routes to serve more than 190 destinations across 38 countries, and more scheduled connections to Europe than any other airport in the world, apart from Munich.
In June 2018, Emirates is set to open a new direct service to Dubai in June 2018, and onward access to a wide range of destinations right across the world, including Shanghai, Sydney, and Hong Kong.
During 2017, the top five destination countries reporting the strongest growth by passenger volumes were Spain (+478,000), France (+382,000), Denmark (+281,000), Turkey (+222,000) and Bulgaria (+134,000).
The top five destination airports recording the largest increase in passenger numbers during the year were Copenhagen (+263,000), Oslo (+240,000), Hamburg (+180,000), Toulouse (+153,000) and Sofia (+137,000).
The number of passengers passing through the airport in December 2017 was down 1.2% year-on-year, largely due to the cancellation of over 300 flights due to adverse weather. However, it was still the second busiest December on record with more than 1.8million passengers flying during the month.
London Stansted Airport Chief Executive Officer, Ken O’Toole, says, “The last year has been a very busy and exciting time at London Stansted with passenger numbers and the range of destinations directly available from the airport both reaching all-time highs.
“The positive passenger growth was driven by increased choice from many of our airline partners, particularly Ryanair who experienced another strong year, and the very successful opening of Jet2.com’s first base in the south of England back in March.
“In 2018, our aim is to continue growing our passenger numbers and provide even more choice, so we were absolutely delighted to announce just before Christmas that Emirates will begin operating a new service to Dubai from Stansted in June. This excellent addition to our route network comes on top of the very exciting news that Primera Air will also launch direct flights to New York, Boston and Toronto from April and May this year.
“These great successes are just the start, not the end, of our long-haul ambitions with more routes to the USA and new services to China and India key targets for us.
“As we are now serving more passengers than at any time in the airport’s history, it’s imperative that we plan how we can keep pace with demand and invest in developing quality, good value facilities to ensure we do all we can to enhance the passenger experience.
“Work is now underway on phase one of our £500 million airport transformation project which will add more check-in desks, extra seating and more car park spaces, and we will shortly submit a planning application to make best use of our existing runway capacity within current environmental limits to improve UK connectivity and support national and regional economic growth.”