A tobacco firm has opened what it calls a “state of the art” smoking balcony at Birmingham Airport.

Imperial Tobacco launched the facility as part of its Smoking Allowed campaign to improve facilities for smokers.

The airport said it went ahead with the balcony after asking passengers what more they would like to see at the flight hub.

Head of commercial Richard Gill said: “We’re committed to providing quality facilities for all our passengers and we’re pleased to be able to open this facility for those who chose to smoke in response to research we carried out to find out what facilities our customers would like to see at Birmingham Airport.”

Imperial said the balcony was accessible from the airport’s new departure lounge bar and provided lighting, shelter, hand gel and litter bins, along with a departures board for flight information.

The company’s general manager Amal Pramanik said: “We are hugely committed to supporting those 12 million UK adults who choose to smoke tobacco and we actively engage with consumers across the country to ascertain the levels of support they require.

“Over the past few months we have been working with organisations across the country to improve smoking area facilities for adult consumers and the new smoking area at Birmingham Airport is our latest success story.”

The balcony opened as it emerged that around 700,000 more passengers were flying from the airport than the same time last year.

Chief executive Paul Kehoe said a 2.3 per cent rise in April was down to increases in business and leisure travel.

He said: “Before Easter I would have said it was all business.”

He added a “return to leisure” since Easter had been “a great surprise,” with a number of airlines showing rapid growth.

Work has already started on a £40 million runway extension, which Mr Kehoe said would be a “game changer”. It will allow direct flights to the far east and the west coast of the United States.