A record breaking 78 million passengers used Heathrow in 2017.

This represented a 3.1% increase on the previous year with passenger numbers driven by larger and fuller aircraft.

The west London hub’s noise footprint was at its smallest recorded level in 11 years with 15% fewer households affected by noise.

The reduction came as a result of working with airlines to encourage the use of quieter aircraft, according to the airport.

Night time jet movements also declined by a third (32%) in 2017.

The figures emerged just days ahead of Heathrow starting its first public planning consultation in the coming days into its third runway plans.

December passenger numbers grew  by 2.8% to 6.3 million, statistics released today showed.

A total of 248,288 passengers used Heathrow on December 22, making it the busiest day of the month in the run-in to Christmas.

Domestic and emerging markets continued to be sources of growth.

UK travel was up 6.6% in the month while Asia saw 5.5% growth on the same month last year.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “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.”

Responding to the Heathrow figures, Glyn Jones, chief executive of Stobart Aviation, owner of Southend airport, said: “Higher passenger growth at Heathrow may seem like something to celebrate from a business perspective but it raises the ugly spectre of yet more delays and frustration for the very users of Britain’s busiest airport.

“The ingredients of hassle, stress and disappointment are certainly not a recipe for a comfortable travel experience.

“And the passenger pain is far from over. A much-talked about third runway will help relieve the pressure but we are still at least a decade away from delivery.

“It’s time for fresh thinking around the south east’s capacity crisis.

“Under-used smaller airports could be key to providing a short to medium term solution by plugging the massive shortfall.

“While Heathrow is full, London Southend currently has a million passengers with potential capacity for ten times that number.”