A massive increase in passengers using regional airports should not be seen as a green light to sanction future aviation growth, Midland campaigners have warned.
The Civil Aviation Authority yesterday revealed the number of passengers using regional airports had more than doubled since 1990.
Total passenger numbers at Midland airports - including Birmingham, Nottingham East Midlands and Coventry - grew by 184 per cent in the 14-year period.
The biggest growth has been in scheduled services to Europe, where the Government's 1993 "open-skies" policy has led to the rise of low-fare airlines, the CAA report said.
However, campaigners against airport growth in the Midlands said the huge passenger increases noted at some regional airports merely reflected the birth of the "low-cost" market.
The steep rise in demand should not be used to justify new 'no-frills' airports setting up, they said. Harry Bush, the CAA's economic regulation group director, said: "The challenge for policymakers is to build on the success so far by continuing to allow the interplay of commercially-minded airports and airlines to improve services and increase choice for consumers which, in turn, can help to deliver broader regional development aims."
Chris Crean, West Midlands Friends of the Earth campaigner, said the study showed the "un-natural explosion in the low-cost market". He added: "The Government must not use this study as a template going forward." The CAA report said between 1990 and 2004, the biggest increase in passengers at a Midlands airport was at Birmingham, where numbers rose from 3.5 million to 8.8 million.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport welcomed the report, adding: "The conclusions it reaches are CAA conclusions, not ours."