Heathrow airport says it saw record numbers in 2012 but warns it is at capacity

LONDON – The owner of Heathrow airport said Monday that Britain must expand its airport capacity or lose out to rivals, as it announced that a record 70 million passengers used the London air hub in 2012.

Including interest payments on debt and one-off items, Heathrow reported a net loss of 40.9 billion pounds ($63.3 million) in 2012, compared with a loss of 191.5 million pounds a year earlier.

The airport saw an 8 per cent rise in revenue to 2.46 billion pounds for the year of the London Olympics, and an underlying profit of 46.4 million pounds.

There were 471,341 flights to and from Heathrow in 2012, just below its absolute capacity of 480,000.

Owner Heathrow Ltd. — formerly BAA — said that “unlike its rivals in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Dubai, Heathrow is full and its capacity constraints prevent any meaningful increase in the numbers of flights and routes.”

“This means the country’s ability to trade with emerging economies is constrained, with potential long-term consequences for U.K. trade, jobs and economic growth,” it said.

Heathrow’s owners hope to build a third runway, but the idea has been stalled by strong opposition. The British government has ordered a review of Britain’s airport capacity, but it is not due to report until 2015.