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Passengers using Bristol airport rose by almost 500,000 in 2015 to reach a record 6.76 million.

The 7.7% year-on-year increase was the sixth consecutive year of growth for the third-largest regional airport in England.

Continued growth is forecast in 2016, with passenger numbers expected to exceed the seven million mark for the first time in the airport’s history.

Both charter and scheduled airlines contributed to the rise last year, with increased capacity on existing routes and the introduction of new destinations.

Tui and Thomas Cook sold more seats and holidays, and traffic via hub airports such as Amsterdam, Dublin and Frankfurt was strong, with many people making onward connections to long-haul flights.

Established airlines easyJet, BMI Regional and Ryanair introduced routes to destinations including Basel, Bilbao, Munich, Düsseldorf and Vienna, while 2015 also saw Wizz Air start services to Katowice in Poland and Kosice in Slovakia, with the Bulgarian capital of Sofia to follow later this month.

Bristol will become only the second UK departure point for Icelandic low-cost airline, Wow air, when it starts flights to North America via Reykjavik in May.

Work is underway on a £24 million west terminal extension to improve the security search process for passengers when completed later this year, as well as creating an enlarged baggage reclaim area, customs facilities and meet and greet area.

Work has also commenced on the construction of a 201-room Hampton by Hilton hotel set to be completed this winter.

This follows the opening of an £8.6 million extension to the departure lounge in July 2015.

Chief executive, Robert Sinclair, said: “Increased demand for air travel is a positive sign that the south-west economy continues to thrive.

“Given the growth in our route network and continued improvement in facilities and services, passengers are increasingly turning to Bristol as the premier gateway airport serving the south-west and Wales.”

Bristol airport is owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.