Heathrow's best December seals bumper year for airport

World's fourth busiest airport handled 6.6 million passengers during festive season, with a daily average of 216,000 throughout December

A plane taking off from Heathrow. The airport had its best-ever December in terms of passenger numbers, bringing the 2023 total to more than 79 million. PA
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London Heathrow Airport had its busiest December yet, with 6.6 million people passing through in the run-up to Christmas and New Year.

It brought the annual passenger total for Heathrow to 79.1 million, a rise of 28.5 per cent compared to 2022.

North American routes proved the key driver for Heathrow's December passenger numbers, with 1.6 million people travelling across the Atlantic during the month.

New York's JFK Airport was the most popular destination from Heathrow last year, followed by Dubai, Qatar and Dublin.

Overall, Heathrow now has 24 routes that service more than a million passengers a year, after Boston and Geneva joined the list in December.

Last year was also the busiest year for Heathrow's Terminal 5, which opened 15 years ago.

'Strong foundation for 2024'

Friday December 22 was the month's busiest single day, when 250,000 people passed through Heathrow.

Throughout December, 744,000 passengers from the Middle East passed through, a rise of 7.8 per cent on same month the previous year.

During the whole of 2023, slightly more than 8 million passengers from the Middle East arrived and departed from Heathrow, which was 15.4 per cent higher than the previous year.

“As we move into the new year, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all our Team Heathrow colleagues and partners for their hard and successful work over the busy festive period, which went really well in terms of service and operations," Heathrow chief executive Thomas Woldbye said.

"By ending 2023 on a high, a strong foundation is laid for 2024 during which Heathrow will continue to grow and to facilitate the UK’s potential for global growth.”

Meanwhile, 133,277 tonnes of cargo was processed by Heathrow in December, which made up part of 2023's full-year total of more than 1.43 million tonnes, a 2 per cent rise on the previous year.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 8:15 AM