London’s Gatwick airport welcomed over 2.5 million passengers in the month of March, up by 2.5% on the same period last year. The continuing cold weather and the early Easter break are both thought to have contributed to the figures – the highest for any March in the last five years.
The largest growth was in the long haul markets which saw an increase of 5.1% – an additional 27,800 passengers travelling to destinations across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. European traffic bucked its recent downward trend with a 1.9% increase – 25,400 more passengers – in scheduled flights and a 3.9% increase in European charter traffic, some 9,400 passengers.
Load factors (the measure of how full flights are) were also up in March, reaching a record 83.1%. March’s performance took the full year traffic figures to 34.2 million passengers, up 1.2% on the previous year’s figure of 33.8 million.
These new figures come in what many have described as a turbulent year for the airport, which has seen several airlines reduce their services, or cease them altogether. Ryanair withdrew all non-Irish services, Korean Air consolidated its services with those at Heathrow (due to increased competition with BA), and Air Moldova recently transferred its services to Stansted.
Contrary to the decline, airlines such as British Airways, Easyjet and Norwegian Air Shuttle all increased the number of services offered from Gatwick, whilst several new airlines announced routes from Gatwick.
Gatwick’s chief executive, Stuart Wingate, said: “This year Gatwick has continued to compete with other London airports in attracting more passengers, new airlines and new routes.” He added ““Today, passengers can fly direct to Beijing, Istanbul, Moscow and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam from Gatwick. Later this year, we will be opening up the country’s first direct route to Jakarta in Indonesia. This is important in the context of ensuring the UK has the international connectivity it needs to remain globally competitive.”
He concluded by saying: “We will continue into this next financial year with the same drive and focus to create a world-class airport”.
This focus is likely to be on long haul services, which the airport is currently increasing, but will also centre on the continuation of its £1.2 billion transformation. Last year this work included the completion of the new baggage handling facilities in the North Terminal, the opening of Europe’s largest World Duty Free store and the resurfacing of its runway – the world’s busiest – whilst not impacting on normal operations. A new stand – designed with the Airbus A380 in mind – was also opened, furthering the airport’s capacity for large-scale international flights.