Passenger numbers and cargo volume passing through Hong Kong's international airport rose to a record high last year, with throughput at Chek Lap Kok recording double-digit growth over 2003, the Airport Authority said yesterday. The number of passengers soared 35 per cent to 37.14 million after having plunged in 2003 due to the Sars epidemic. The airport operator also confirmed an earlier report that cargo throughput rose 17.4 per cent year on year to 3.1 million tonnes last year. Last month, the airport handled 283,000 tonnes of cargo, up 14.1 per cent year on year, driven by robust trade with the United States, Europe and the mainland. The number of passengers rose 11.5 per cent year on year to 3.35 million, the authority said, citing a surge in holiday travel. The Airport Authority also has its sights set on the mainland. It is expected to sign today a deal to buy more than 30 per cent of Hangzhou's Xiaoshan International Airport. Earlier reports said it was buying a 49 per cent stake for $2.5 billion to $3 billion. Analysts said the deal would raise the Airport Authority's growth potential as it prepared to list.