Passenger numbers at UK airports have fallen for the first year since 1991.
New figures from the Civil Aviation Authority revealed UK airports handled 235 million passengers in 2008 1.9 per cent fewer than 2007.
Traffic declined most in the final quarter of the year with four million fewer passengers handled from October to December 2008 than in the same months of 2007.
November passenger numbers had the largest monthly drop of 8.9 per cent year on year with December passenger numbers declined by 7.9 per cent.
CAA group director of economic regulation, Dr Harry Bush, said: “The fall in passenger numbers is to be expected in light of the worsening economic situation during 2008. The combination of business failures, such as those of XL Leisure Group and Zoom Airlines, together with a fluctuating oil price and the economic downturn has had a marked effect on the numbers of trips being taken.
“The early indications are that the larger falls seen in the last quarter of 2008 are continuing into the New Year, with the prospect of declining traffic in 2009 overall, which, if it occurs, will be the first time since World War Two that UK passenger numbers have fallen for two consecutive years. Current economic trends make this outcome more likely than not.”
At London airports Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City the fall was two per cent overall.
At regional airports traffic contracted by 1.8 per cent to 98 million passengers. Manchester saw passenger numbers fall by 3.8 per cent whereas Birmingham airport grew by 4.8 per cent.
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