UK airports handled 6% more passengers last year despite holiday airlines enjoying their smallest share of the market for 20 years, figures out today showed.
A total of 229 million passengers passed through UK airports in 2005 - an increase of more than 6% on 2004, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced.
At 13.4%, the proportion of passengers flying on UK charter flights was the lowest in the last 20 years, the CAA added.
In contrast, the proportion of passengers at UK airports flying on UK scheduled airlines reached 50.5% last year - the highest level for 20 years.
Big growth on routes to North Africa, Poland and Italy helped boost passenger numbers, the CAA said.
Airports that enjoyed large traffic increases last year included Kent International at Manston (104% more passengers), Bournemouth (up 68%) and Coventry (up 56%).
Passenger numbers at the London area airports increased 4% to nearly 134 million, with Heathrow handling nearly 68 million customers in 2005.
Traffic at regional airports last year rose 9% to 95 million, with Blackpool numbers up 42%, Exeter up 36% and Liverpool up 32%. Regional airport passenger numbers have now doubled from the 47 million handled in 1995.
Air transport movements (landings and take offs of commercial aircraft) increased 6% last year to 2.3 million. The biggest increase was at Luton where movements rose 17% to 11,200.
In 2005, UK airport passengers were predominantly bound for, or arriving from, destinations in Europe. The number of passengers on flights to or from Europe totalled 129 million, an increase of eight million, or 6%, on 2004.
The largest growth was on routes to Italy, up by 1.0 million passengers (an increase of 11%), Ireland, up by 0.9 million (9%) and Poland, up by 0.8 million (85%).
The next most popular destinations were either other UK airports or North America, each of these destinations accounting for more than 20 million passengers.
There were 26 million passengers on UK domestic flights, up by 4%, while passengers on flights to and from North America rose 3% to 22 million.
Despite this increase, passenger numbers between the UK and North America have not quite returned to their pre-September 11 levels of 23 million a year - a figure last achieved in 2000.
Passenger growth on North Africa routes was up 38% last year, with Australasia up 33% and the Indian subcontinent up 27%.
The total number of passengers carried from UK airports by non-UK EU airlines broke 50 million for the first time in 2005, rising 13% on the 2004 total of 47 million.
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