February 24, 2014 / 8:36 AM / in 4 years

London's Heathrow Airport serves 3.4 pct more passengers in 2013

LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Heathrow Limited said on Monday customer numbers rose 3.4 percent last year, lifting core annual earnings at Britain’s biggest airport, which is operating close to capacity and has been shortlisted for expansion.

Passenger traffic at Heathrow Airport reached record levels of 72.3 million during 2013 from 70 million the year before, as aircraft using the airport were larger and fuller than in previous years.

Heathrow is at the centre of a political tussle over airport expansion in the south-east of England and was last year shortlisted as a location for a new runway.

Lawmakers and business leaders agree that the London area needs new runways to help the country remain economically competitive, but building extra capacity there is unpopular with many voters.

The airport is operating close to capacity. Around 470,000 flights departed and landed in 2013, meaning the airport is operating at 98 percent of the 480,000 flight capacity permitted.

Heathrow Limited, owned by unlisted Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH), reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of 1.42 billion pounds in 2013, 23.1 percent higher than in the year before.

The airport’s higher passenger numbers combined with a rise of 15.1 percent in the average aeronautical income per passenger received by Heathrow helped lift earnings.

Parent company HAH is co-owned by Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial, its the largest shareholder with a 25 percent share, and partners including Qatar Holding, China Investment Corporation and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.

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