BAA sees passenger traffic fall at airports

Passenger traffic at BAA airports fell last month compared to October 2010, as demand softened, reflecting weakness in the wider economy.

The company, majority owned by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, yesterday said 9.6 million passengers flew from its UK airports last month, down 1.3 per cent on the same month last year.

It said London’s Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, served 6 million passengers, also down 1.3 per cent, its first monthly fall since December 2010. Excluding the domestic market, Heathrow’s traffic increased marginally, with European traffic up 1.7 per cent and North Atlantic up 0.3 per cent.

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“The reduction in passengers at Heathrow is indicative of the softening in the global economy,” chief executive Colin Matthews said.

“We remain cautious about predicting growth in the coming months.”

BAA last month said third-quarter earnings rose, helped by continued growth at Heathrow, where business-related traffic is holding up despite global economic uncertainty.

Business travel is traditionally more resilient than leisure travel during a downturn as cash strapped consumers cut down on discretionary spending when times are tough.

BAA has, in recent months, reported a steady rise in long-haul business traffic, especially to emerging markets such as China and India, and said growth in US traffic had also helped.

Traffic at London’s Stansted airport, which is heavily exposed to short-haul economy travel, was down 4.9 per cent on last year.