PASSENGER numbers between Ireland and Britain's biggest airports slumped nearly 10% in January.

Figures published by the British Airports Authority show passenger numbers dropped to 336,300 in January from 303,200 a year ago. The rate of decline in January compares with a 0.2% fall in December. The drop in passengers was attributed to cutbacks in flight schedules by a number of airlines including Ryanair and Aer Lingus.

BAA runs Heathrow and Stansted airports in London, and Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland and Southampton airport. The company excluded passenger numbers from Gatwick Airport, which it sold last year to an investment consortium, from its prior year comparisons.

Separately, analysts at investment bank Macquarie expect Ryanair to return €1.5bn to investors in 2013, €500m more than the airline has publicly said. The Macquarie analysts rate the stock 'outperform' and said the shares could rise by 50% in the next 12 months.