Heathrow airport said it is on track to top 81 million passengers this year for the first time after recording more than 7.75 million flyers in July.
So far this year, the airport has served 46 million passengers – up 1.4 per cent on the same period in 2018. Traffic to Africa was a big driver of the growth, increasing 5.2 per cent year on year in July.
Flights to the EU saw a 1.8 per cent drop in traffic during the month, while those to the rest of Europe fell 0.8 per cent – a stark contrast to a 3.6 per cent rise in domestic UK passengers. However, looking at 2019 so far, UK flights decreased 0.5 per cent while EU traffic remained flat.
Africa and North America have seen the biggest gains in traffic since January, growing 8.8 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively, while Latin American services saw a 2.9 per cent boost in passenger numbers.
Meanwhile, cargo tonnage at Heathrow dropped 6.9 per cent in July, with movements in the UK seeing the biggest decline, falling 43.5 per cent. EU cargo decreased 11.3 per cent and North America went down 10.2 per cent.
The news comes as Heathrow continues to develop its master plan for building a third runway. A public consultation on the latest version of its plan runs until 13 September, though the airport is still facing a legal challenge after Heathrow Hub, which has presented its own plan for extending an existing runway rather than building a new one, won the right to appeal a High Court ruling against its request.
Heathrow has faced criticism from environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion over its expansion plans, but the airport claims it has called on the UN’s aviation body ICAO to set targets for the use of sustainable fuels and the government to “invest some of the nearly £4 billion annual revenue raised from Air Passenger Duty to scale-up its production”.
The airport has also launched a new bus and RailAir service from Guildford, which it says has “already taken hundreds of vehicles off the road since launching”.
Earlier this year, Heathrow proposed a vehicle access charge for cars picking up and dropping off passengers in car parks and designated drop-off zones in an effort to discourage passengers from driving to the airport to tackle emissions.
Passengers are still waiting to hear whether workers at the airport have accepted a new pay offer, with a strike on 23 and 24 August still ‘on the table’, according to the Unite union.
Commenting on the latest figures, Heathrow airport CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “The master plan for the UK’s newest runway is set to be finalised within 18 months’ time and it was great to see businesses up and down the UK recently write to the new prime minister highlighting their support for this vital project and the need to get on and deliver it. We are clear that expansion at Heathrow will not come at a cost to the environment, which is why we are working with the industry and government to develop environmental targets that will ensure growth is managed sustainably both now and with expansion.”