Duty-free shopping and the weakened pound drove sales at London’s airports to their highest levels for a decade last year.

Heathrow generated its highest level of income from retailing since duty-free for European travellers was abolished in 1999. The airport made £351.5m last year from retailers, up 7% on the year before. Retail income per passenger was also up, rising 6.7% to £4.93.

Although passenger numbers at the airports have fallen the surge in sales has been helped by the falling value of sterling which has made goods comparatively cheap for foreigners passing through the airport.

Chief executive of BAA Colin Matthews, which owns six UK airports, said improving conditions and service at Heathrow had helped encouraged passengers to spend money. “Passengers who are confident and relaxed are more inclined to spend money than those who are stressed or hassled or delayed,” he said. “The better we make our airport work, the better our retail performance is.”