Bad weather puts 130k dent in BAA passenger numbers

Fog, snow and strong winds across the UK and Northern Europe hit passenger numbers by around 130,000 across BAA’s six airports last month.

Without the bad weather, the underlying result would have been an increase of 2.7%, the airports operator reported today.

BAA airports handled 7.9 million passengers in the month, up by just 1% compared with the same period last year.

Domestic traffic was the only major sector to see a decline in November, down 3.6% due mainly to weather disruption.

A reduction in low-cost airline capacity was the main factor behind a drop of 7.6% at Stansted, while most of the 3.2% decline at Southampton was attributed to the adverse weather late in the month.

Without the severe weather in Scotland and elsewhere, Glasgow would have reached last year’s November total. But volumes fell by 0.8% as a result of the snow.

Snow disruption was worst in the east of Scotland, and Edinburgh (down 3.9%) lost at least 50,000 passengers while Aberdeen (down 1.9%) lost around 15,000.
Passenger traffic at Heathrow grew by 4.3% in November against the same month last year, leading to a fifth consecutive record month.

The aviation industry has continued its efficiency drive with a continuing rise in load factors – up 1% at Heathrow to 71.7% and at group level up 1.3% to 72.1%, BAA said.

Domestic traffic at Heathrow was up 3.2%, while European scheduled traffic rose 7.5%. North Atlantic services carried 4.4% more passengers and other long haul routes recorded a collective increase of 2.1%.

Passengers flying to China, including Hong Kong, rose by 9.7% and India saw an increase of 5.3%.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: “It has been a tough month for passengers with the worst snow for decades but people understand that safety comes first. 

“We have invested in winter preparations and have worked around the clock to keep our airports running. 

“But it is not just about clearing snow, it’s also about landing and take-off rates and weather at destination airports. 

“Heathrow and Stansted have remained open throughout, but elsewhere and across Europe some airport closures were inevitable.

“Despite a further increase in passengers at Heathrow we have kept queues down, returned people’s bags quicker and improved passengers’ journeys.

“Heathrow’s £5 billion investment programme continues, modernising Terminal 3 and building a brand new Terminal 2 – the biggest private development in the country. We have a long way to go but real progress has been made in cutting queues, improving service and upgrading the older terminals.

“Airlines are benefiting from the improving economic climate and from having fuller aircraft, allowing us to make better use of the scarce resources we have at Heathrow.

“We’re adjusting our landing charges to further incentivise greener, more efficient aircraft to benefit the industry, passengers and local community.

“On-going strong performance at Heathrow shows that the global recovery continues as we head towards Christmas and into the new year.”

Heathrow passengers passed through security in less than five minutes 97.9% of the time in the first nine months of the year, according to the company.

Baggage arrived on carousels on average 34 minutes after the aircraft touched down during October. This is one minute ahead of BAA’s target of 35 minutes, and three minutes quicker than its 2009 figure of 37 minutes.

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