Gatwick handled an extra 1.1 million long-haul passengers as numbers rose to 46.4 million in the year to March.

The 14.3% rise in long range passengers was driven by a 45% increase in routes to Asia, including flights to Shanghai opened by China Eastern Airlines in December.

The expansion was also fuelled by Norwegian’s low cost long-haul network including a new transatlantic link to Rio de Janeiro in March.

The growth was balanced by a 7% reduction in the airport’s noise footprint, Gatwick claimed.

Revenue for the year increased by 6.1% to £810.8 million to produce a 2.9% rise in profit after tax to £208.1 million.

This came as income per passenger for the year grew by by 75p or 4.5% to £17.47.

Almost £250 million was spent in the 12 months on improving passenger facilities and operational performance as part of a five-year £1.1 billion investment to 2023.

An extension to Pier 6 to provide additional aircraft stands to meet forecast growth a new mezzanine level in the North Terminal to accommodate growing passenger demand are among the upgrades planned.

The figures come a month after French group Vinci Airports completed the purchase of a 50.01% stake in the airport with Global Infrastructure Partners continuing to manage the remaining 49.99%.

CEO Stewart Wingate said: “Today’s results underline our ambition to be a thriving global airport which continues to invest in our passengers and local communities, while strongly supporting UK plc.

“Over the last year, we have achieved strong passenger growth matched by a reduction in our local noise footprint; robust financial results matched by record levels of investment back into the airport; and growing global connections fuelling increased trade and tourism opportunities.

“These strong results give us a firm foundation for future sustainable growth and later this year we look forward to publishing our final master plan which will help set the long-term growth and development plan for Gatwick.”