Passenger numbers at Lancashire’s closest airport were 79 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.

This is one per cent higher than the UK average (78%).

According to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, just over six million passengers (6,082,905) arrived or departed on flights at Manchester airports in 2021, which is 13.4 per cent lower than 2020’s figure.

Compared to 2019’s figures, Manchester Airport saw  79.2 per cent less passengers compared to 2021.

According to a Manchester Airport spokesperson, passenger numbers drop to as low as 5 per cent of usual volumes during the pandemic.

They said: “Covid-19 had a devastating impact on aviation, with the industry being the most impacted according to the ONS.

“At Manchester Airport we saw, at times during the pandemic, passenger numbers drop to as low as 5% of usual volumes.”

However, 2022’s figures are looking brighter and expect passenger numbers to continue to rise during summer.

A spokesperson said: “Following the easing and then removal of Government travel restrictions earlier in the year, we are now in recovery and are seeing a significant increase in passenger numbers.

“We are currently experiencing about 79% of usual volumes and expect that to continue to rise ahead of the summer.”

Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the PA news agency found just 64.4 million passengers arrived or departed on flights at UK airports in 2021.

Trade body the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said the figures highlight how the UK’s aviation sector “suffered more than European rivals last year” due to tougher travel restrictions.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “The CAA’s figures show just how badly UK airports were affected by the pandemic, much more so than our European competitors.

“The UK’s restrictions were more onerous and lasted for longer than those in Europe, despite our much more rapid vaccine rollout.”

The AOA said UK airports have lost £10 billion in revenue since the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, but those in Germany, Italy, Ireland and the US received nearly eight times as much financial support.

Ms Dee warned that the UK “cannot afford our aviation network to lag behind our global competitors”.

The “financial health” of UK airports places the country “at a disadvantage”, she said.

“That is why the UK and devolved governments should set out a comprehensive plan to recover the UK’s aviation connectivity.”