London's Heathrow passengers up 1 percent in February

LONDON Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:53am GMT

British Airways aircraft taxi after snowfall at Heathrow airport in London January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall

British Airways aircraft taxi after snowfall at Heathrow airport in London January 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Neil Hall

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LONDON (Reuters) - London's Heathrow airport said passengers in February rose 1 percent to 4.85 million, largely due to an increase in the number of seats per aircraft after British Airways' takeover of smaller competitor BMI.

Heathrow Ltd, previously known as BAA, said European traffic rose 4.4 percent, led by connections to Italy, Portugal and Germany.

Passengers to China were up 29.8 percent, the group said on Monday, but traffic to North America fell 1.9 percent, Latin America was down 4.6 percent and Africa declined 11.7 percent.

Heathrow, controlled by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, said its load factor - a measure of how full flights were - rose 2.4 percentage points to 69.6 percent.

The company wants to increase capacity at Europe's busiest hub by building a third runway, despite the Conservative-led coalition government overturning a decision to expand Heathrow after it came to power in 2010.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews, said: "This month's figures reflect larger, fuller aircraft being used at Heathrow, not the addition of new routes to emerging economies which are so vital to UK trade, jobs and economic growth."

Cargo was down 4.3 percent on last February, the group said, in line with EU-wide trends.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Lorraine Turner)

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