A record number of passengers passed through Heathrow airport’s terminal doors in January.

A staggering 5.5 million travellers were welcomed over a period of one month, to mark the best ever start of the year, and 1% up on figures for 2015.

The increase in larger, fuller, quieter aircraft is reported to be behind the growth in passengers, as well as improved travel to emerging markets including Mexico which was up by 21% and China by 16%.

Both these countries also showed a rise in cargo movement by 28%, followed by Turkey which was up by 16% in January, resulting in cargo volumes showing an overall boost of 2.9%.

READ MORE: Top business CEOs highlight need for Heathrow expansion

There were a number of new routes such as Vietnam Airlines’ services to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City following its switch from Gatwick last year, and British Airways’ new flights to Kuala Lumpur which boosted freight volumes to East Asia by 26% against January 2015 – underlining the export growth potential that an expanded Heathrow could deliver.

Looking to the future, Garuda Indonesia is to move its operations from Gatwick to Heathrow in March, with its first non-stop services to Jakarta, connecting British SMEs with the largest economy in Southeast Asia.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “With record passenger numbers and strong cargo volumes – it’s been a great start to 2016 for the nation’s largest port, Heathrow.

“With expansion, we’ll open up 40 new trading links which will carry more British exports to the fastest growing markets in the world.

“We’ll help the government re-balance our economy and build a better Britain.

"The Prime Minister can say yes and we will deliver.”