Airport chiefs believe increased passenger numbers are a sign of the potential for growth at Stansted.

More than 1.15million passengers passed through the terminal at the Essex base in January, an increase of 7.2 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Almost 18million travellers have used the airport in the past year, 2.6 per cent more than during the previous 12 months.

Stansted managing director Andrew Harrison said: “The increased number of passengers using Stansted this January compared to last year is a good start to 2014 and a signal of the airport’s future potential.

“Our £80 million terminal transformation project continues at great pace with customers already enjoying improvements to the security area of the terminal.

“The aviation market in the south-east has never been as competitive as it is right now, and to sustain long-term growth we will need to exceed the expectations of our existing carriers and fight hard to win new business and passengers.”

Proposals for Stansted to become a four-runway ‘super hub’ were rejected by the Airports Commission in December, but Stansted already has the capacity to handle up to 45million passengers per year.