Middle East traffic helps UK's Heathrow airport to record 75m passengers for 2015

LONDON // Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest, on Tuesday reported record passenger numbers for 2015 of 75 million, up 2.2 per cent on the previous year.

Revenues at the airport climbed 2.7 per cent to £2.76 billion (Dh14.29bn) for last year, with pre-tax profits of £223 million, up 22 per cent on the previous year. However, despite soaring demand from passengers and airlines, the airport’s capacity is capped while it has just two runways.

Some 469,671 flights operated out of the airport in 2015, only slightly more than in the previous year, with an average load factor of 76.5 per cent. This month, Oman Air set a new record for take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, paying £75 million for a pair from Air France-KLM.

Traffic on routes to the Middle East grew by 5.8 per cent as more flights, with larger aircraft, were started to the region. Both Qatar Airways and Etihad have added A380 services from Heathrow.

Increased frequencies to North America led to a 1.7 per cent increase in traffic, while traffic to Latin American grew by 8.3 per cent, largely due to the start of an Avianca route to Columbia.

European passengers increased by 3.9 per cent, accounting for a significant part of the total growth in 2015. British Airways, the biggest airline operating at Heathrow, has increased its seat capacity as part of an overhaul of its short-haul aeroplanes.

In 2014 Dubai International Airport overtook London Heathrow as the world’s busiest for international passenger traffic.

A total of 68.9 million passengers had passed through Dubai International compared with 67.8 million at Heathrow as of December 22 for that year, data from the Airports Council International showed.

Heathrow celebrates its 70th anniversary in May after opening in 1946 with two runways and tents for terminals.

“When you look at what we have achieved since then, it’s amazing and yet we still have just two runways and that must change,” said John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive at Heathrow.

Heathrow has managed to reduce its operating costs by 3 per cent and expects to make continued savings in 2016.

The airport invested nearly £600m in improving the experience of passengers during the year, including opening new stores in Terminal 5 with Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. A new passenger baggage facility opens in Terminal 3 in May.

The owners of the airport, including the state of Qatar, shared dividends worth £380m in 2015, down from £445m the previous year.


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