London’s Heathrow Airport, which has operated its two runways close to capacity since the start of the decade, managed to squeeze in 2.3 million more passengers last year as airlines deployed bigger planes and carried more people per flight.
The traveler tally at the home base of British Airways increased 3.1 percent to 78 million, even as the number of aircraft movements rose just 0.2 percent, Heathrow Airport Ltd. said in a news statement issued on Thursday.
The passenger surge shows Heathrow is finding ways of accommodating more customers as it awaits construction of a £16 billion, or $20 billion, third runway that could lift annual capacity to 135 million flyers. Backed by the government in 2016, the new strip still faces a number of hurdles and isn’t due to open until the middle of the next decade.
As the United Kingdom prepares to exit the European Union, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said the recorded customer tally shows the airport is “helping to strengthen the British economy as the country seeks to redefine its role in the world.”
The hub’s fastest-growing passenger markets were the Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific, though Europe and North America accounted for the most people. It also reported a 10-percent surge in cargo volumes to 1.7 million metric tons, led by growth from the United States and East Asia.