A record number of people travelled through London Gatwick in 2016, thanks in part to Game of Thrones fans flying to Northern Ireland to see the TV show’s set, the airport has claimed.
Forty-three million passengers passed through Gatwick last year, up 3m from 2015. The Sussex airport enjoyed a record December that saw a 15pc increase in the number of passengers from the same month in 2015.
Numbers were boosted by a 27pc growth in Gatwick’s long-haul services, while cargo metric tonnage rose 13pc.
The airport credited Game of Thrones with helping to make Belfast the destination with the biggest passenger increase last year.
Nearly 400,000 more passengers flew to Belfast International last year, an increase of 83pc from 2015, as Gatwick said “the Game of Thrones effect is well and truly established”.
It added that Prince Harry’s travels to Toronto to visit girlfriend Meghan Markle had inspired long-distance travellers, with the Canadian city enjoying a 97pc increase in passengers arriving from Gatwick, which was overlooked in favour of Heathrow for expansion last year.
The airport expects the most popular long-haul destinations of 2017 to be Barbados, Dubai, Jamaica, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando and Vancouver.
For short-haul flights, it predicts Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice will take the top spots.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate said the record figure put the airport “14 years ahead of industry predictions”.
He added: “This milestone is an impressive conclusion to 2016, the year that saw the 80th anniversary of the very first flight from Gatwick.
“Gatwick’s booming long-haul services and increased cargo volumes illustrate the vital contribution the airport continues to make to the local and national economy, in the airport’s busiest-ever December, as we continue to offer the UK government a credible and deliverable option for runway expansion.”