Last month's severe winter weather in the UK cost airports operator BAA £24 million ($37.6 million) and saw passenger numbers nosedive by 10.9%.

Worst affected was London Heathrow, which took a £19 million hit. About 40% of this reduction in profit resulted from higher operating expenses, including the additional costs of operating in severe weather and providing support to stranded passengers.

Passenger numbers at Heathrow in December dropped 9.5% year-on-year.

The biggest declines in passenger numbers were seen at Edinburgh and Southampton airports, with drops of 18.4% and 22%, respectively.

"The drop in passenger traffic is almost entirely due to the disruptive effects of the coldest December since records began in the UK, which affected much of northwest Europe and latterly the north eastern seaboard of the US," says BAA.

Aside from the snow disruption, BAA says that two strikes at British Airways and the volcanic ash cloud last April resulted in the loss of 3.6 million passengers at its UK airports in 2010.

Across all of BAA's six UK airports, full-year passenger numbers in 2010 fell by 2.8% to 103.9 million.

"There were many challenges in 2010, ranging from poor weather and security threats through to industrial action and the cloud of volcanic ash," says BAA chief executive Colin Matthews.

"But we have continued our £1 billion a year investment programme and are encouraged by Heathrow's underlying positive performance during challenging economic times."

Matthews adds that BAA is "determined to put December behind us and win back confidence by improving customer service, upgrading our terminals and doing whatever it takes to improve people's journeys".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news