LEEDS-BRADFORD Airport has been "pleasantly surprised" at the number of passengers it handled in July as flights start to rise again.

Although the number of travellers it handled was down 89% year-on-year compared to 2019, that performance is far better than June when the decline in passengers was 99.9%.

Passenger numbers for July 2020 were recorded at 53,000 and the airport said it had seen better than expected passenger numbers with many flights in excess of 80% full.

Jet2 has announced the dates it is resuming flights to some of its destinations.

They are: Cyprus, August 17; Balearic and Canary Islands, August 23; mainland Spain and Portugal, August 24.

The airport saw a sharp increase in passenger numbers early in July, which was inevitably impacted later in the month by the removal of air bridges with popular European tourist destinations. For example, in an average summer, almost 50% of flights fly from Spain and Portugal.

Popular destinations included Turkey, Poland, the Netherlands and Malta.

In June, Civil Aviation Authority figures showed that just 234 passengers used the airport compared to 449,471 in June 2019.

A spokesperson for the airport said: “We are delighted to have welcomed back thousands of holidaymakers and travellers to our airport since we reopened in late-June.

"Although we are experiencing a smaller number of passengers compared to this time last year, we are nonetheless pleasantly surprised to see better than expected passenger numbers.”

The airport said it was confident that passenger numbers will continue to grow as the world gradually recovers from the pandemic with passenger bookings reflecting this on the schedules the airlines are currently able to offer.

The resumption of arrivals and departures followed months of preparation by staff at LBA. Working closely with airlines and partners, the airport implemented a range of measures in line with the latest guidance from the Government to keep passengers and staff safe.

July saw Aer Lingus Regional announce that it is introducing a new route between LBA and Belfast City Airport from October 1, which will include up to three daily flights while LBA also welcomed the inaugural Eastern Airways flight to Newquay, which it is now announced will operate this winter as a year-round service.

Ryanair has announced it has restored over 60% of normal flight schedules from August 1, following the resumption of its services at the end of June.

Throughout July, Ryanair flew 4.4 million customers to destinations across Europe and it says it will continue to increase its flight frequencies throughout August with more than 1,600 routes and over 11,000 weekly flights across its network.

It is not known how that will affect LBA.

Ryanair is encouraging all passengers to observe the healthy flying measures it has had in place since mid-May, including the mandatory use of facemasks and a reduced in-flight cashless service.

Ryanair’s CEO Eddie Wilson said: “Since the resumption of our schedule in late June, passenger numbers have continued to grow and as a result, we’re delighted to announce that our flight schedule is set to increase to more than 60% in August.

"We were pleased to see our people and customers adopt to our healthy flying measures, and encourage all those travelling with us in August to continue to do so.

"As traveller confidence returns, we look forward to welcoming back our customers, who can fly on the lowest fares to over 200 destinations across Europe. We’re also proud to play our part in helping Europe’s tourism industry take off again."