Gatwick handled more than 2.5 million passengers in March, a  rise of 2.5% over the same month last year.

The figures for March are the highest for five years.

The sustained cold weather and the earlier start to the Easter getaway contributing to the growth in traffic, the airport said.

There was 5.1% growth in long haul travel with 27,800 more passengers flying to destinations across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

European scheduled traffic was up 1.9% or 25,400 more passengers and European charter traffic was up 3.9% or 9,400 more passengers following several months of decline.

Full year traffic to the end of March grew by 1.2%, taking the total number of passengers handled up to 34.2 million passengers from 33.8 million in the previous 12 months in spite of “continuing tough economic conditions”.

During the year Ryanair withdrew all non-Irish routes, Korean Air consolidated winter services at Heathrow after renewed competition from British Airways, Adria Airways relocated to Luton and Air Moldova moved operations to Stansted.

Growth was achieved through easyJet, BA and Norwegian Air Shuttle growing frequencies on existing routes and with higher load factors; new airlines such as Air China, Air Arabia Maroc, Iraqi Airways, Icelandair, WOW Air, Caribbean Airlines, Vueling and Gambia Bird; and new routes.

Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “This year Gatwick has continued to compete with other London airports in attracting more passengers, new airlines and new routes.

“Through our continuing investment in the airport and relentless focus on improving the passenger experience we have seen traffic figures rise despite the backdrop of tough economic conditions at home and abroad.

“We have seen existing airlines like easyJet, British Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle grow and new airlines arrive, opening up even more choice and connectivity for passengers.

“Today, passengers can fly direct to Beijing, Istanbul, Moscow and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam from Gatwick.

“Later this year, we will be opening up the country’s first direct route to Jakarta in Indonesia. This is important in the context of ensuring the UK has the international connectivity it needs to remain globally competitive.”