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Heathrow remains top European hub as Istanbul surges up rankings

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London's Heathrow airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt retained their positions as Europe's busiest hubs, with Istanbul Ataturk jumping to fourth place over Amsterdam Schiphol as its growth surged.

[LONDON] London's Heathrow airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt retained their positions as Europe's busiest hubs, with Istanbul Ataturk jumping to fourth place over Amsterdam Schiphol as its growth surged.

Heathrow drew 73.4 million travelers in 2014, a 1.4 per cent jump, though growth lagged behind the 2.8 per cent gain at Paris Charles de Gaulle, which drew 63.8 million people, and third- ranked Frankfurt's 2.6 per cent advance to 59.6 million. Istanbul saw a 11 per cent surge in passengers to 57 million, taking it past Madrid and Amsterdam Schiphol, with a growth rate that, while slower than last year, suggests it may rank third, or even second, in 2015.

Alongside Gulf hubs, Istanbul is winning an increasing share of the intercontinental transfer traffic that's been a mainstay of flights at West European airports. London's appeal as an end destination and an inflow of jets like the Airbus A380 has helped Heathrow overcome the limitations of only two landing strips, though larger aircraft could not help the hub keep pace with its European peers.

Aircraft movements fell 1.5 per cent to 465,240 at Air France's chief base, Aeroports de Paris said yesterday. Frankfurt, home to Deutsche Lufthansa AG, had 469,026 flights, a 0.8 per cent decline, Fraport AG said today.

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At Heathrow, the addition of 1.1 million travelers was less than half the 2.7 million extra customers who used London Gatwick, its chief rival for a new runway in southeast England, where the annual growth rate was 7.6 percent.

Runway Debate Heathrow needs a third runway to revive growth as its ability to add flights becomes limited, with the number up 0.2 per cent to 470,695 in 2014.

Amsterdam Schiphol, now Europe's No 5 airport, posted an increase in passengers of 4.6 per cent, with the 2014 total of just under 55 million failing to outstrip Istanbul Ataturk, whose owner is part-controlled by the parent of Charles de Gaulle. Movements at the home base of Air France-KLM's Dutch unit were up 3 per cent at 438,296.

The rapid growth of Turk Hava Yollari AO, or Turkish Airlines, has spurred growth at Istanbul Ataturk, which saw a 20 per cent traffic increase in 2012 and a 14 percent gain last year. The airline is emulating Emirates and other Gulf carriers in building its base into a global transfer hub.

BLOOMBERG