Jeremy Marshall, chief executive of British Airports Authority PLC (BAA) has claimed that the authority's recent move to private ownership has helped expand air cargo business by creating the opportunity to respond better to needs in new and more effective ways.

Cargo handled at the seven BAA-managed airports increased by 16 percent in January to 64,033 metric tons - the best monthly rise for more than three years. It contributed to a near 10 percent improvement in cargo for the past 12 months to 825,808 tons.Still handling the vast majority of U.K. air cargo is London's Heathrow Airport, with a 10 percent rise in tonnage in January to 44,508 tons. Heathrow's tonnage for the 12 months ending in January was nearly 7 percent up to 580,468 tons.

On a value basis, it handled 23 billion ($40.5 billion) worth of goods - some three-quarters of the total value of all U.K. air freight. Mr. Marshall said Heathrow is creating a larger, dedicated air cargo management team to help it win even more business.

London's second largest airport, Gatwick, recorded a 32.5 percent cargo increase in January to 15,577 tons, contributing to a 12-month rise of nearly 19 percent to 195,530 tons.

Stansted, the third largest airport, increased its cargo for the 12 months by over 41 percent to 18,748 tons.

The BAA's remaining airports - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick and Aberdeen - handled 2 percent more cargo for the 12 months at 31,062 tons.