Gatwick recorded its busiest ever year in 2014 by handling 38 million passengers – a 7.6% increase.
Meanwhile, a record 73.4 million passengers used rival Heathrow last year, an increase of 1.4% on 2013.
Both airports used their record-breaking performances to highlight their campaigns for more runway capacity.
At Gatwick, long-haul traffic played a key role in the growth, including the launch of new low-cost long-haul flights to New York and Los Angeles which helped drive a 2.8% growth in flights to North America.
Traffic to other long haul destinations increased by 12.1%. Travel to Dubai alone rose 8.3%, while Gatwick’s links to emerging markets were boosted with new routes such as Garuda Indonesia’s new services to Jakarta and new easyJet routes to Tel Aviv.
The airport said around one in five passengers now travel through Gatwick on business and the it now serves 46 of the 50 top business destinations in Europe.
Among the fastest growing European destinations from Gatwick in 2014 were Copenhagen (up 23.9%) along with Paris and Brussels which were boosted by the launch of new services.
The record-breaking growth in 2014 was completed by more than 2.5 million passengers using the airport in December – up 8% year-on-year.
The December figures marked 22 consecutive months of growth at Gatwick.
Chief financial officer Nick Dunn said: “Gatwick’s record-breaking figures show an airport serving the widest range of travel and airline models – exactly what is needed from the decision about the UK’s next runway.
“Airport expansion should be for the many not the few, and our broad range of growth underlines that Gatwick is the obvious solution if we want all passengers and all types of travel to benefit.
“Expand Heathrow and we take a backwards step towards higher fares, less choice and the monopolies of the past.
“Only Gatwick can offer the win-win solution of a bigger Gatwick, a better Heathrow and airports throughout the UK benefiting from greater competition.”
At Heathrow fast-growing emerging markets continue to be a driver of traffic growth, with passenger volumes up 6.3% to Latin America, 5.2% to East Asia and 3.5% to the Middle East & Central Asia.
Growth of 2.5% in transfer passengers last year attracted more long-haul flights to growth markets like China and Mexico.
Heathrow achieved its busiest ever December with 5.93 million passengers handled by the airport over the festive season, an increase of 2.4% on the same month in 2013.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye welcomed the decision by Vietnam Airlines to switch operations from its rival Gatwick, using it as an opportunity to further push Heathrow’s case for expansion.
“Vietnam Airlines’ announcement that it is moving its operation from Gatwick to Heathrow is good news for Britain as it secures a direct flight to an important growth economy, with more frequent flights and cargo capacity,” he said.
“It also underlines that airlines can only make flights to many long haul destinations viable from a hub airport like Heathrow.
“Only by expanding Heathrow can we add direct flights to the world’s growing cities, increase our exports and connect all of the UK to global growth. Expanding Heathrow will help Britain win the race for growth.”
Larger, quieter aircraft continued to contribute to passenger growth at Heathrow last month. Seats per aircraft increased 0.6% to 208.4, while load factors remained at 76.6%. Passengers per aircraft rose 0.4% to 159.6.
Sourced from Travel Weekly