Gatwick continues to press its case to government for expansion as it reported a record year by handling more than 44 million passengers.

The figure for the year to March 31 was 7.7% up on the previous 12 months. Long-haul traffic grew by 13.6% and now represents one in five of Gatwick’s passengers.

Air traffic movements increased by 4.9% to 280,000, with the airport handling more than 177,000 passengers in its busiest day.

Annual revenue rose by 7.7% to £725 million, resulting in a pre-tax profit of £131.6 million. Traffic at the UK’s second largest airport has since grown to pass the 45 million passenger mark this week.

“As capacity issues become a challenge, Gatwick will continue to see considerable growth in passenger numbers as airlines swap short haul for long haul services,” the airport said.

“Norwegian’s new route to Buenos Aires using a B787 Dreamliner, for instance, will replace a short haul European service in Gatwick’s schedule.”

The world’s longest low cost long-haul route – to Singapore – is due to be started by Norwegian in September.

North Atlantic routes were up 38.7%, with Norwegian opening new services in the year to nLas Vegas and Oakland, San Francisco.

Norwegian is set for further transatlantic growth with routes from Gatwick to Denver and Seattle from September and Buenos Aires in February 2018.

Meanwhile, China Airlines will be adding to Gatwick’s Asia routes by starting flights to Taipei in December, bringing total long-haul routes from the airport to 60.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Our continued growth and success is a testament to record investment, increased competition, and our renewed focus on efficiency and service.

“It is a simple fact that, of the top 20 airports in the world by passenger growth, Gatwick is the only one with a single runway.

“We continue to offer the UK a financeable and deliverable second runway scheme which we stand ready to deliver should the government give us the go-ahead.

“We have, this week, broken through the 45 million annual passengers mark which is 13 million passengers a year more than we served in 2009 when Gatwick came into independent ownership.

“Gatwick has a bright future – we will invest £240 million this year as we continue our £2.5 billion programme to improve our facilities, improve our service and passenger experience, and improve our performance so we can realise our ambitious plans to grow even further.

“This will lay some of the physical groundwork for our continued growth. Improvements planned include an extension to Pier 6 and changes to the taxiway configuration to improve efficiency on the airfield even further.”