Heathrow achieved a record September fuelled by a rise in long-haul journeys offering hope of an improving international economy, according to parent company BAA.

The number of passengers flying from the London hub grew by 7.6% in the month to 437,608 over September 2009, the largest year-on-year monthly increase since July 2004.

Travellers from Heathrow to North America increased by 6.5% (88,203) over last September to 1.4 million with South America up 16.4% (6,769) to 47,973.

The most popular routes were New York (241,746), Dubai (153,319) and Dublin (134,500). But Stansted continued to record a drop in passenger numbers as budget carriers continued to withdraw services.

The decline in passenger numbers at Stansted slowed from 6.1% in August to 4.3%, with traffic falling 80,394 to 1.7 million.

Glasgow’s traffic was down by 5.7% and Aberdeen by 5.1%, but these declines are contracting as carriers fill the gaps in services left by the collapse of flyglobespan, according to BAA.

Edinburgh rose 2.2% to 873,195 while Southampton saw a marginal rise to 174,570 from 174,501.

Across all of BAA’s UK airports, 9.9 million passengers travelled during September – up 3.3% (320,370) from 9.6 million last year.

“The growth was also supported by the reinstatement of flights previously removed from schedules and consolidated due to the recession and encouraging signs that business people are travelling again, following disruption in the early part of the year, caused by poor weather and the volcanic ash cloud,” BAA said.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Heathrow’s record September figures underline that transport links are vital to our economy. 

“The growth reflects an improved outlook for our airline customers and an increase in business confidence, as shown by cargo figures which continue to outperform the pre-recession peak.

“Our £1 billion-a-year investment programme continues, in order to offer our growing numbers of passengers a quicker, easier and more enjoyable travel experience.

“We have much still to do but are pleased to see a steady improvement in passenger perceptions of the airport.”