London Heathrow airport boosted cargo traffic 14.2 percent in December from a year ago, a record for the month and the first increase since February 2011.
Europe’s fourth largest air freight hub handled 124,371 metric tons in December, taking the full year total to 1.485 million tons, an increase of 0.8 percent on 2010. The end year surge took Heathrow within a few thousand tons of third ranked Amsterdam Schiphol which reported cargo was “virtually unchanged” in 2011 at 1.5 million tons.
The surge in Heathrow shipments in December was, however, skewed by comparison with the same month in 2010, when heavy snowfalls closed the airport, resulting in the cancellation of thousands of flights.
Heathrow grew much faster than the U.K.’s second largest cargo hub London Stansted, which boosted December traffic by 4.7 percent to 16,929 tons. This took the total for 2011 to 203,830 tons, up 0.5 percent on the previous year.
BAA, which owns both airports, appealed to the government to lift its ban on an additional runway at Heathrow, which is operating close to capacity and risks losing market share to its continental European rivals.
There were 476,197 flights at Heathrow in 2011, representing 99.2 percent of the airport’s capacity.
“Heathrow is central to developing [the U.K.’s] trade links with fast growing emerging markets. Capacity constraints are damaging the U.K. economy today when the country can least afford it,” said BAA Chief Executive Colin Matthews.
Matthews said a proposed new airport in the south east of the U.K. has a projected cost of $77 billion and could take decades to build.
“During that time we could be handing over on a place the U.k.’s traditional trade advantages to our European competitors.”
Paris and Frankfurt, Europe’s largest cargo airports, already have 1,000 more flights each year to China’s three largest cities than London does, BAA said. The company, which was forced by competition regulators to sell London Gatwick, is currently negotiating the enforced sale of Edinburgh, Scotland. It must then dispose of London Stansted.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.