Gatwick shook off losing out to Heathrow in the battle for expansion by notching up its busiest ever October.

Increased long-haul services continued to a 7.1% year-on-year rise in passenger numbers to 3.9 million.

This came as Tianjin Airlines announced a new route to Xi’an – home of the Terracotta Army.

The airline will also be increasing its existing Tianjin and Chongqing services from Gatwick to three services a week, plus providing a direct onward connection to Auckland via Chongqing.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick’s record passenger numbers, booming long-haul growth, and growing cargo volumes continue to be a vital economic driver for our area, our region, and for the national economy.

“Our long-haul services are growing right across the board. There is increased frequency on existing routes, our airlines are starting new routes, such as Tianjin’s new direct route to Xi’an – the UK’s only direct service – and brand new airlines like Cathay Pacific have joined Gatwick this year.

““This latest route announcement adds to the airport’s line up of long haul-routes which have started this year to China, Peru, Canada, Costa Rica, Nigeria, as well as the US, which will further increase in November with new routes to Moscow and Cape Town.

“The natural result of the airport’s long-haul growth to key markets is our increase in cargo, which is joined by strong growth in Gatwick’s regional connections across Britain, demonstrating Gatwick’s vital economic role both within Britain and internationally.”