Heathrow airport reports record passenger numbers for 2012

LONDON (AP) - The owner of Heathrow airport said on 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 last year.

Including interest payments on debt and one-off items, Heathrow reported a net loss of 40.9 million pounds (S$78.5 million) last year, 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 last year, just below its absolute capacity of 480,000.

Owner Heathrow Ltd - formerly BAA - said "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 UK 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.