x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rise in Middle East passenger traffic bolsters UK airport operator

British airport operator Heathrow said passenger traffic to and from the Middle East grew by 4.6 per cent to 4.4 million in the first nine months of the year.

Heathrow Airport Holdings says passenger traffic to and from the Middle East grew 4.6 per cent to 4.4 million in the first nine months of this year.

Larger aircraft and passenger growth from Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Saudi Airlines aided the expansion, said the British firm, which operates airports in Heathrow, Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Traffic growth from the Middle East and Asia contributed to the airport operator’s 22.1 per cent rise in earnings.

“Strong passenger satisfaction and passenger numbers have driven strong growth in cash flows, funding current investment of almost £4 million [Dh23.7m] a day in improving the airport for passengers and airlines,” said Colin Matthews, the firm’s chief executive.

The company said the number of passengers passing through its airports increased 3.6 per cent during the period to 54.8 million. Net retail income per passenger rose 2.6 per cent to £6.18.

But Heathrow Airport Holdings warned that future investment plans for Heathrow International, the world’s busiest airport for travellers, were being threatened by the intention of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to keep current airline landing charges long into the future.

“Progress is jeopardised by the CAA’s final proposals for Q6, which reduce returns to below the level at which Heathrow’s shareholders have said they are willing to invest,” said Mr Matthews. “We are now carefully considering our investment plans before responding to the CAA.”

His comments suggest the company’s proposals to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport could be thrown into doubt by the CAA’s plans.

Britain’s wavering over the future growth of Heathrow Airport contrasts with Dubai’s determination to proceed with the expansion of its airport.

Dubai International Airport, which became the world’s second-busiest in terms of global travellers in March, is expanding its capacity to accommodate more double-decker A380 aircraft.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai Airports, said last month he hoped Dubai would become the world’s busiest airport by next year.