Long-haul routes from Gatwick grew by almost a quarter (23.2%) last month to help push passenger numbers up to record levels.

The airport’s busiest ever March saw the number of travellers rise by 2.5% year-on-year to 3.5 million, giving an annual total of 45.7 million.

New transatlantic routes by Norwegian to Austin and Chicago helped push up numbers to North America by 37%.

Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles saw large percentage increases, up 83.1% and 53.4% respectively, along with Toronto, which was up 13.5%.

Passengers to Hong Kong rose by 67% year-on-year while a number of African destinations also performed well, with Casablanca up 82.9% and Banjul 57.6%.

Qatar Airways announced a new service to Doha while EasyJet is to introduce three flights a day to its new hub at Berlin Tegel from next month.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Having celebrated five consecutive years of growth back in February, March’s figures continue Gatwick’s global connectivity success story.

“Passenger demand for our transatlantic routes continues to boom with new services to Austin and Chicago with Norwegian starting in March – along with British Airways adding further capacity to Toronto with their new thrice-weekly service.

“As our performance in March demonstrates, Gatwick is playing an increasingly important role for the country on the world stage, providing global connectivity at a time when the UK really needs it.

“We have exciting plans for future growth at the airport, maximising the use of our existing facilities whilst continuing to offer the country the prospect of a financeable and deliverable new runway scheme.”