Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

`Full' Heathrow Adds 1.6 Million Passengers Aided by Bigger Jets

  • Europe's biggest hub boosts tally 2.2% to almost 75 million
  • Planes using crowded London airport now average 209 seats

London’s Heathrow Airport, which has operated close to the capacity of its two runways since the start of the decade, boosted passenger numbers to just short of 75 million last year as airlines deployed bigger jets to beat the cap on flights.

Europe’s busiest hub added 1.6 million passengers, a 2.2 percent gain, even as plane movements increased just 0.3 percent, it said in a statement Monday. By the year’s end, more than 20 Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbos were landing every day, helping to lift the average number of seats per flight to 209.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has delayed a decision on whether to allow the construction of a third runway at Heathrow until after London’s mayoral election later this year. The airport says it needs a new strip to lift passenger numbers above 135 million by 2050, while opponents say the 18 billion-pound ($26 billion) plan is too costly and will increase noise in a heavily urban area.

Flights to the Persian Gulf states -- home to some of the world’s largest international carriers -- as well as emerging markets were among the main drivers of growth in 2015, Heathrow said. Passenger volumes rose 14 percent on routes to China and 8 percent to Latin America. The airport handled 1.5 million metric tons of cargo.

Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said in the statement that Heathrow’s expansion plan will make Britain “the best connected country in the world.”

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