Numbers released this week show that Heathrow Airport benefited from an increased number of passengers in the month of December, with some 5.6 million using the London hub.
The 2% rise on 2011 brings the airport’s total number of passengers for the calendar year to just less than 70 million, a 0.9% increase on the previous 12 months. This not only makes it the busiest December on record, it cements 2012 as the airport’s busiest year.
North Atlantic traffic led the performance increases (in terms of passenger numbers), up 3.2% on the previous year. Some of the other major factors were the increase in flights to Brazil – which saw traffic rise by 21.6% – East Asian traffic, up 6.2%, and the Middle East which saw increases of 3.4%. Both Eastern Asia and the Middle East are a turn around on last year, when they saw drops in passenger numbers due, in part, to the Japanese Tsunami and political turmoil caused during the Arab Spring.
It was not all good news however, as both African and Indian markets saw a decrease in traffic, with passenger numbers down 5.7 and 3.4 percent respectively. The drop reflects a decrease in the number of services with Virgin Atlantic’s decision to cut flights to Nairobi and Mumbai, and the integration of BMI and BA services being the most high-profile of the disappearances.
In a year where the continent has seen a series of financial and political crises, the European market saw growth of 0.5%, The biggest fallers were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the countries which have been plagued by financial turmoil this year. Greece was the largest victim, and correspondingly saw the largest drop in passenger numbers, down by some 7.3%. Italy saw a fall of 6.8%, whilst Spain and Portugal were also down. The four countries together – which are some of the busiest, especially in the summer, saw a collective decrease of 4.5%. Countering this decrease, both Germany and France saw increases in their traffic; rising 2.3 and 0.6 per cent, respectively.
Domestic air travel also had an eventful year, with changes to other London Airports as well as the integration of BMI and BA services; however, it saw a modest increase of 0.5 per cent for the 12 months up to the end of December 2012.
Over the coming weeks there will be more detailed analysis of the figures, which will no doubt reflect the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as one of the key factors in the airport’s good performance (during the Games several inbound, outbound and overall passenger records were broken, some more than once). The airport’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, however, was upbeat about the performance throughout 2012 saying: “The figures for 2012 show Heathrow is delivering higher passenger numbers despite a tough economic climate”. He also added that the airport’s investment program would be a focus, as the opening of the new Terminal 2 approaches in 2014.