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Heathrow and Stansted set new records for February passenger numbers

 (PA)
(PA)

Heathrow and Stansted enjoyed their busiest ever Februarys last month as passengers flocked to the airports for half-term getaways to escape Britain’s wet winter.

Latest official figures show 5.8 million passengers travelled through the west London hub, up 11.6% on 2023, with the numbers boosted by the extra day for the Leap Year and the bumper half term. The biggest increase was on routes to Asia with a rise of 55.7% after major markets such as China finally dropped all Covid restrictions.

More than two million passengers departed or arrived at Heathrow over the record breaking half term. Winter sun won over the ski slopes with nearly two thirds of travellers landing somewhere warmer than London.

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The 29th February added 207,000 passengers to the total putting Heathrow on track to pass its all-time high for the year as a whole. In the 12 months to February Heathrow handled 80.3 million passengers, just below record annual highs in 2019.

Meanwhile, cargo tonnage is already 21% up on 2023.

Recent route additions include BA to Abu Dhabi, Kos and Izmir, a new Virgin Atlantic service to Bangalore and the return of Vueling to Barcelona and Paris Orly, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Heathrow CEO, Thomas Woldbye, said: “It was wonderful to welcome so many passengers for the first holiday peak of 2024, setting a new Heathrow record. While we are serving more people, visitors to the UK are spending less since the removal of tax-free shopping, impacting businesses across the country. The Spring Budget was a missed opportunity to give the whole tourism, hospitality and retail sector the support it needs to compete internationally.”

More than 1.92 million passengers passed through Stansted’s terminal during February, beating the previous record set in February 2020 by almost 50,000.

 

Even without the extra leap year day, passenger numbers would have exceeded all previous records.

 

More than 360,000 passengers jetted out for the half-term holiday alone. Winter sun-seekers flocked to the Canary Islands, Southern Spain, Turkey, and Dubai, while the top choices for those heading to the slopes were Geneva, Chambery, Grenoble, Turin, Innsbruck, and Zurich.

Jonathan Fowler, London Stansted’s Chief Operating Officer, said:,"It's been a really strong start to the year, and we're certainly not seeing any let-up in the demand to fly as we now look ahead to the upcoming Easter break.

“The wet and cold weather here in the UK during February clearly encouraged many people to head off in search of some winter sun, but we also welcomed tens of thousands of visitors heading into London or sampling the delights of the East of England.

“We’re now gearing up for the Easter holiday which is always a busy time of year for the travel industry. Holidaymakers will again be taking advantage of the choice, value and simplicity of using London Stansted to catch some much-needed sunshine, visit one of Europe’s great cities or head to the Alps for some end of season skiing.”