UK airports see weak passenger growth in 2011

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UK airports saw passenger numbers grow by 4.1% to 219 million in 2011, although the increase is largely attributed to a recovery from disruption caused by volcanic ash, winter weather and industrial action that hit the air transport sector in 2010.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority says that if these factors are stripped out then passenger growth was only 0.6%, "suggesting underlying growth was still relatively weak".

However, it does end a run of three consecutive years of falling passenger numbers at UK airports, taking the figures back to 2004 levels.

Iain Osborne, CAA director of regulatory policy, says the ongoing economic difficulty in the UK and Europe have created an "outlook that remains uncertain".

He says: "The aviation industry will once again be forced to work hard to maintain choice, value and high service standards, even during tough times."

London's airports were the big winners in 2011, with passenger numbers growing 5% to 134 million across the six airports. Heathrow alone posted a 6% rise in travellers, taking it to an all-time high of 69 million. Only Stansted bucked the trend, where passenger numbers fell by 3%.

At the UK's regional airports traffic rose by 2.6% to 86 million passengers, with Manchester seeing a 6% increase to 19 million.

However, of the established regional airports, Prestwick was the biggest loser with passenger numbers dropping by 22% to 1.2 million, followed by Bournemouth (-18%), Durham Tees Valley (-15%) and Cardiff (-12%).

Overall freight volumes declined by 0.5% against 2010's figure to 2.5 million tonnes.