London Gatwick Airport hit a new record high in passenger numbers in 2016, on the back of increasing demand for long-haul flights and the ongoing popularity of a number of European destinations.

Britain's second-biggest airport said on Friday (6 January) that it saw 43 million people travelling through its gates in 2016, with 3.1 million passing through Gatwick in December alone, which represented a 15% year-on-year increase and was the busiest December in the airport's history.

Gatwick, which lost out to Heathrow Airport in the battle to be chosen for expansion, saw long-haul traffic grow 26.8% compared to the previous year, while cargo grew 13.3% in tonnage terms.

Traffic to North Atlantic destinations grew 43% year-on-year over the past 12 months, with Toronto being the long-haul destination with the biggest passenger increase, as flights on the route carried 191,124 passengers more than in 2015.

The figure represented a 97% year-on-year increase, which was only topped by New York and Milan, which saw passengers numbers surge 123% and 99% respectively from the previous year.

Gatwick said the Canadian's city new-found popularity among Britons was down to Prince Harry's flights to Toronto to visit girlfriend Meghan Markle. Meanwhile the 83% increase in passengers flying to Belfast was attributed to what the airport described as the "Game of Thrones effect", as most of the popular series has been filmed in Northern Ireland.

"Gatwick's booming long-haul services and increased cargo volumes illustrate the vital contribution the airport continues to make to the local and national economy, as we continue to offer the UK Government a credible and deliverable option for runway expansion," said group chief executive Stewart Wingate.

In 2017 the airport forecasts that the most popular long-haul destinations will include Barbados, Dubai, Jamaica, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando and Vancouver, while in short-haul Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Barcelona and Venice will occupy the top spots.