Britain's two biggest airports were busier than ever in 2014, new figures show today.

Heathrow passenger numbers last year rose 1.4% to a record 73.4 million, while a total of 38.12 million were handled at Gatwick - a 7.6% increase on 2013 and also an all-time high. 

The Heathrow numbers were boosted by a record final month of the year which saw nearly six million passengers pass through the west London airport - a rise of 2.4% on the December 2013 figure. 

Gatwick's December figure of 2.58 million was 8% up on the same month in 2013.

Heathrow's full-year total included a 6.3% rise in Latin America traffic, with East Asia up 5.2% and Middle East and Central Asia up 3.5%. 

At Gatwick, there was a 2.8% growth in North America traffic, while other long-haul destinations grew 12.1%. 

Bosses of both airports seized on the figures to support their case for being recommended by the government-appointed Airports Commission this summer to be the site of a new runway.

"Only by expanding Heathrow can we add direct flights to the world's growing cities, increase our exports and connect all of the UK to global growth. Expanding Heathrow will help Britain win the race for growth," Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye said. 

"Our record-breaking figures show an airport serving the widest range of travel and airline models - exactly what is needed from the decision about the UK's next runway," commented Gatwick's chief financial officer Nick Dunn said.