The annual figure, which came as the airport marked its 70th anniversary, represented an increase of 1% and was achieved despite the airport operating at capacity most of the time.
December saw 6.2 million passengers travel through the airport, an increase of 4.4% year on year. Emerging markets in the Middle East, up nearly 17%, Asia up 3.2% and a 2.1% increase in North America flights drove this growth.
In the full 12 months, one downside was that the airport saw domestic passenger numbers fall 9.6%, due in part to Virgin’s Little Red ceasing operations in September 2015. Middle East traffic was, however, up 8.8% and flights to Asia/Pacific up 2.8%, while North America services fell by 0.5%.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow celebrated 70 years as the country’s front door in 2016 and I’m proud that we were able to end this year on such a high note.
“Whether it was welcoming back a triumphant Team GB from Rio or giving that special Heathrow service to a record number of passengers, increasing Britain’s trade with the rest of the world or securing Government support for expansion – Heathrow is Britain’s airport and we will continue to help all of our country thrive for decades to come.”
Rival Stansted airport also saw a record December, with 1.85 million passengers, an increase of 8.5%. Last year saw Stansted achieve 24.3 million passengers, beating the previous record of 23.8 million set in 2007. The increase was achieved despite 25,000 fewer aircraft movements than in 2007, highlighting the use of bigger aircraft and increased load factors.