A surge in long-haul flights at London Gatwick Airport, particularly to South America, helped boost passenger numbers in the half-year ended Sept. 30.

Overall, 26.6 million passengers traveled through Gatwick in the period, a 0.2% year-over-year increase. Long-haul passenger numbers, however, rose 2.3%, according to the airport’s interim results released Nov. 26.

Gatwick recorded a net profit for the half-year of £137 million ($176 million), down 1.5% from £139.1 million for the same period last year. Revenue was up 5.6% to £541.3 million.

The results show that one in five of the airport’s departing passengers are now flying long-haul. For many years Gatwick was regarded as an almost exclusively short-haul departure point, notably to Mediterranean resorts.

The airport pointed to a new route opened by LCC Norwegian to Rio de Janeiro, as well as increased frequencies by the airline to Buenos Aires, as having added 101,000 more passengers traveling to South America.

New long-haul routes this year also included Miami, San Francisco, Kuwait City and Shanghai.

The UK’s exit from the European Union now seems more likely given the ruling Conservative Party’s lead in the opinion polls heading into to December’s general election. With that as a backdrop, “new links created to key markets such as South America will play a crucial role in the country’s economy and national identity,” Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said. “While we were saddened by the recent collapse of Thomas Cook, we are confident in our future prospects and look forward to easyJet and other airlines using these slots going forward.”

The failure of Thomas Cook had nationwide impact on air traffic, UK air navigation service provider NATS said.

“The collapse of Thomas Cook resulted in a marked decline in nontransatlantic arrivals and departures last month, which impacted air traffic figures overall. We would expect recovery in that segment in the coming months as other airlines begin to purchase the slots left by the tour operator,” NATS said.

Overall, NATS reported a 0.5% drop in air traffic and handled 228,355 flights in UK airspace.

Alan Dron, alandron@adepteditorial.com