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The boss of Heathrow today pledged to open up 40 new long haul routes to “supercharge” British trade if the airport is allowed to expand.

Chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, was commenting as the west London hub reported a record month in February with passenger numbers up by 4.5% year-on-year to 5.18 million passengers.

Larger, quieter aircraft continued to be a driver for increased passengers.

Strong passenger growth was recorded from emerging markets, with Mexico up 21%, China 14%, Turkey 6% and the Middle East 6% as airlines continue to benefit from new aircraft including Airbus A380 superjumbos.

Passenger numbers to and from East Asia were up by 11.4% following the introduction of Vietnam Airlines flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City after switching from Gatwick last year and British Airways’ new Kuala Lumpur service.

Garuda Indonesia will start the UK’s first non-stop service to Jakarta next month, providing improved direct access to the largest economy in south-east Asia.

Holland-Kaye said: “Long-haul routes from Heathrow support British exporters up and down the country – with businesses trading up to 20 times more with markets where we have a daily direct flight.

“This month we’ve seen a big boost in exports to Latin America and East Asia.

“With an expanded Heathrow Britain can do even better. We’ll open up 40 new trading links and supercharge British trade with the fastest growing markets of the world.”