UK airports handled 221 million passengers during 2012 according to figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an increase of 0.6% (1.4 million) on 2011.
This growth continues the recovery started in 2011 following three consecutive years of falling passenger numbers at UK airports. However, passenger numbers for 2012 were still 8% below 2007’s peak of almost 240 million passengers and business passengers using the UK’s airports fell by 4%.
Iain Osborne, Director of Regulatory Policy at the CAA, said: "Whilst our statistics show aviation performance in the UK continues to recover, the overall picture means passenger numbers in the UK are still some way short of their 2007 peak.
“There are still significant challenges ahead for the aviation industry. The economic climate, capacity and the environment are all issues that the industry must overcome to ensure it continues to offer passengers choice, value and high service standards.”
Passenger numbers at London airports rose proportionately more than those at regional airports:
At the London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City and Southend - the increase was 1% to 135 million passengers. Heathrow handled its highest ever annual total of 70 million passengers, 0.9% more than in 2011. Passenger numbers grew by 1.7% at Gatwick, 1.1% at Luton and 0.8% at London City, but Stansted saw a fall in passenger numbers (-3.2%) to 17.5 million. Southend grew substantially from 42 thousand passengers to 617 thousand passengers in the year.
At airports outside London traffic rose by 0.1% to 85.7 million passengers. Manchester saw the largest rise in terms of passenger numbers, with an increase of 847 thousand (4.5%) up to 19.7 million. Conversely, Liverpool registered the biggest absolute loss in passengers of 788 thousand (15%) to 4.5 million.
Provisional data from the CAA’s 2012 Passenger Survey (covering Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham and East Midlands), shows that business passenger numbers fell by 4%, holiday passengers grew by 4% and passengers travelling to visit friends and relatives (VFR) were flat compared to 2011. In 2012 inbound passenger segments - those passengers not resident in the UK - performed better than outbound ones: outbound business passengers fell by 8.1% whereas inbound business fell by 0.4%; inbound holiday grew by 7.9% versus 2.3% on outbound holiday; outbound VFR fell by 3.9% whereas inbound VFR grew by 4.4%.
The majority of UK airport passengers (132 million out of 221 million) were bound for, or arriving from, Europe – representing an increase of 1% from 2011. Within this, the largest increase was in the number of passengers travelling to and from Italy (up by 0.6 million, an increase of 6%), while the largest fall in passengers travelling to and from an individual European country was Ireland, where numbers fell by 2% (0.2 million).
Whilst there was a 1.9% (0.4 million) increase in passengers going to and from North America (up to 20.4 million in 2012), passengers travelling to and from international destinations outside Europe and North America totalled 30.7 million in 2012, a fall of 0.4% on 2011. Within this however, passengers travelling to mainland China increased by 83 thousand – a rise of 13% up to a total of 746 thousand passengers for 2012.
In 2012, 20 million passengers took UK domestic flights, representing a fall of 0.7% on 2011.
A continuing trend from previous years is the decline in passenger numbers on charter flights, a drop of 7.9% (1.7 million) to 20.4 million in 2012 compared with 2011. This contrasts with the increase of 1.5% in passengers onboard scheduled flights.
57% (114 million) of scheduled passengers at UK airports travelled on UK airlines, 27% (55 million) travelled on other EU airlines, and 31 million on non-EU airlines. Between 2011 and 2012, scheduled passengers carried by UK airlines to and from the UK grew by 2.9% (3.3 million), whereas other EU airlines carried 1.0% (0.5 million) fewer scheduled passengers. Non-EU airlines’ scheduled passengers increased by 1.3% (0.4 million).
During 2012, air transport movements (landings and take-offs of commercial aircraft) at UK airports totalled 2.1 million, a decrease of 1.3% on 2011 and down 15% on the 2007 peak of 2.5 million. The total tonnage of freight and mail carried from UK airports in 2012 was 2.5 million tonnes, an increase of 0.4% on 2011.
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