A spike in long-haul passengers to North America has helped Gatwick Airport smash a world record for passenger at a single-runway airport.
The airport passed the 44m passengers a year mark last Saturday driven by demand long-haul routes, particularly transatlantic ones.
The number of passengers on such flights rose 47pc to 2.87m during the year to end of March as 20 new long-haul routes were launched from the airport.
The West Sussex airport also enjoyed a surge in the amount of cargo it handled, with it rising 16pc to 81,138 metric tonnes, suggesting there is strong demand for hold space on long-haul flights from importers and exporters.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick chief executive, said: “We saw a 34pc increase in cargo in March alone, which is important as the UK re-adjusts and focuses attention on global destinations further afield.”
He added that Gatwick continues to offer a “credible and deliverable option” for another runway, taking a swipe at rival Heathrow which seems to be favoured by ministers for expansion.
The airport also saw strong growth in the number of inter-UK passengers and those to the Channel Islands, up 10.3pc to nearly 4m, while the number of passengers travelling to Ireland rose nearly 16pc to 1.66m.
Passengers on scheduled flights to Europe make up the bulk of Gatwick’s traffic, representing 28.5m of the total, showing how important a Brexit deal allowing easy movement will be.
It plans to start flying to Seattle, Denver and Xi’an – its third Chinese destination – this summer.
The airport’s long-haul ambitions were bolstered last year when Norwegian Air vowed to push ahead with plans to increase the number of flights it offers from the Gatwick airport.