Heathrow airport saw a record 78 million passengers in 2017 after growing at its fastest rate in five years.
Passenger numbers grew 3.1% from 2016’s total of 75.7 million due to record load factors of 78%, up two percentage points.
The airport said this was “partly driven by an increase in UK inbound demand, influenced by the depreciation of sterling, particularly from the Middle East and Asia Pacific”. More airlines were also using Airbus A380 double decker aircraft, it said.
During the year, new long haul services to Barbados, New Orleans, Portland, Qingdao and Santiago were started. Each passenger spent an average £8.45 in the airport’s retail outlets.
Despite the increase in passenger numbers, pre-tax profit fell 18.7% to £217 million. However, adjusted earnings before tax (EBITDA) were up 4.6% to £1.76 billion.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The pre-tax profits number is mainly driven by accounting measures and mark-to-market changes. It’s not really the best measure for infrastructure companies – we tend to look at EBITDA as a better indicator of the underlying health of the business."
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow had a fantastic 2017 – welcoming a record 78 million passengers, giving our best service ever and offering better value for our passengers with lower airport charges.
"But while we are squeezing out small bits of growth, our rivals in France and Germany are overtaking us – for Britain to thrive post-Brexit, the Government needs to crack on with Heathrow expansion as quickly as possible with a vote in Parliament before the summer.”