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The urgent need for more UK airport capacity is highlighted today in a report which reveals that 50.2 million passengers were handled between January and March.
The figure was the highest recorded in the first quarter, more than any year since before the start of the global financial crisis.
This gave UK airports the strongest start to a year since 2008 – with first quarter passenger numbers now close to the 51.4 million level which were last seen during the pre-recession year of 2008, according to official statics released today (Friday).
The first three months of 2015 also saw the largest growth in passenger numbers at 7.5% of any quarter in the last 10 years, primarily due to a 9% hike in European traffic and 7% in domestic air travel.
The growth figures are revealed in the Civil Aviation Authority’s latest quarterly Aviation Trends report.
CAA police director Tim Johnson said: “The large increase in first quarter passenger numbers has led to UK airports recording their busiest ever 12 months and means that for the first time air travel has exceeded the levels last seen before the 2008 financial crisis.
“Figures also show commercial flight numbers are growing much faster at London airports than elsewhere which highlights the pressures both on runway capacity and airspace in the south-east. The increasing levels of air travel highlights the importance of addressing these two issues.
“Without changes both to infrastructure on the ground and in the air, consumers will face higher charges, less choice and more disruption,” he warned.
The bumper start to the year helped UK airports record the best rolling 12 month passenger number total since records began.
In the last four quarters - April 2014 to March 2015 - 243.9 million passengers departed and arrived at all reporting UK airports. This surpasses the previous rolling 12-month peak of 243.3 million passengers, between April 2007 and March 2008.
In the same 12 month period the number of passenger flights across UK airports rose by 1.3% to 2 million. London airports showed a 3.6% rise to 1.02 million, but regional airports recorded a dip of 1.1% to 977,000.
While passenger numbers rose airline punctuality dropped at London airports from 84% last year to 80% and from 86% to 81% at regional airports compared with the same quarter in 2014.
The overall on-time performance at all UK airports dropped from 85% to 80%.
Average flight delays at all London airports increased by two minutes to 12 minutes while regional airports increased from nine minutes to 11 minutes.
The average delay for all UK airports was up by two minutes from nine minutes to 11 minutes.
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