Hopes that the air industry is about to take off have received a fresh blow, with the number of travellers using major UK airports falling to its lowest level for nine months in June.

Airport operator BAA said a total of 12.7 million passengers passed through its airports last month, down 5.9% on the same period last year.

But the firm, which saw a 7.3% fall in May, said this was the best underlying figure since last September.

Stansted, known as the base for several low cost carriers including Ryanair and easyJet, was the worst affected, down 11.5%.

It is down 14.4% for the six months to June 2009 compared with the same period last year after carriers slashed capacity at the airport.

Gatwick saw 7.6% fewer passengers, while Heathrow had a comparatively modest fall of 3.1% due to the number of people it deals with that are transferring to other flights.

BAA said European charter flights made up the only segment of the UK market not to have improved on performance in the last six months.

Domestic traffic was down 8.1% in June, European scheduled flight passengers were reduced by 2.8% and travellers on North Atlantic routes were 9.4% lower.

Long haul flights were the most resilient sector, almost flat on last year at a 0.2% reduction.

Edinburgh was the only airport to register an increase in traveller numbers, at 1.4%, its third month of growth.

BAA is embroiled in a battle against the Competition Commission's (CC) decision to make it sell three of its airports.

The Commission ruled earlier this year that BAA's ownership of seven UK airports was anti-competitive and ordered the firm to sell Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

BAA had already decided to sell Gatwick in West Sussex and said last month that that sale process was continuing.