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Heathrow Airport welcomed a record 76 million passengers in 2016, up 1% on the previous year.

The UK’s busiest airport said the growth was driven by the use of larger aircraft, with around 40% of long-haul passengers travelling on new models such as the Airbus A380 and A350 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

This is compared with around a quarter in 2015.

The airport’s plan to build a third runway was chosen in October as the Government’s preferred option for increasing capacity in south-east England.

Heathrow’s passenger numbers for flights to or from the Middle East rose by 8.8%, the Asia-Pacific market was up 2.8% and demand for European flights increased by 1.8%.

But domestic travel within the UK from the west London hub was down by 9.6%. The amount of cargo transferred through the airport increased by 3%, while the total number of flights rose by 0.2% to 473,231.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow celebrated 70 years as the country’s front door in 2016 and I’m proud that we were able to end this year on such a high note.

“Whether it was welcoming back a triumphant Team GB from Rio or giving that special Heathrow service to a record number of passengers, increasing Britain’s trade with the rest of the world or securing Government support for expansion, Heathrow is Britain’s airport and we will.

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