FRANKFURT  - Frankfurt Airport, Europe’s third busiest, said Friday it handled a record number of passengers last year thanks to the opening of a long-awaited fourth runway. Fraport, the airport’s operator, said in a statement that a record 56.44 million passengers passed through its two terminals in 2011, an increase of 6.5 percent over the year.

“The inauguration of Frankfurt’s new runway had a very positive effect on traffic development,” said chief executive Stefan Schulte.

The 2.8-kilometre (1.7-mile) landings-only strip, which has taken 14 years to build at a cost of 600 million euros ($768 million), was inaugurated in October amid protests by conservationists and local residents and a bitter row over night flights.

Nevertheless, Frankurt looks unlikely to leap-frog Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport to become Europe’s second busiest airport just yet.

Full-year figures for Paris-CDG have not yet been released, but in the 11 months to November, 56.255 million passengers took off and landed there.

London’s Heathrow remains Europe’s busiest airport and saw passenger numbers rise by 5.5 percent to 69.39 million last year.