A record 16.6 million passengers used Luton airport last year.

The figure was up 5% on 2017 and came as December throughput grew by almost 20% to more than 1.26 million passengers.

The total number of flights at 136,270 was up by 0.6% on the previous year, suggesting higher load factors and the deployment of larger aircraft.

Amsterdam, Bucharest and Budapest were the top three destinations in a year when an upgraded terminal was opened as part of a £160 million project to raise capacity to 18 million passengers a year by 2020.

The busiest day in 2018 was August 10 when more than 60,000 passengers were handled.

Airport users will see an extension of the Oyster and contactless card system on train services to and from London this year.

Work is also continuing on a £225 million Direct Air Rail Transit, which will replace the current shuttle bus between Luton airport Parkway station and the terminal.

Once complete, the light rail system will run 24 hours a day, helping to reduce the journey time to central London to under 30 minutes.

Airport CEO Alberto Martin said: “2018 was a landmark year as we welcomed more passengers than ever before, celebrated our 80th anniversary, and opened our newly-upgraded terminal.

“As we enter the New Year, we will work hard to ensure that the benefits of our transformation are felt by our passengers, staff and the local community in the years ahead.”

EasyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair, Tui, EL AL, Blue Air, Tarom, SunExpress, Iberia-owned Air Nostrum and Vueling currently operate from the airport.