PASSENGERS in the North are defying fears over the looming war on Iraq by continuing to fly from the region's airports.

Newcastle, Teesside and Leeds-Bradford reported yesterday that business showed no sign of slowing.

This was despite tour operator First Choice announcing that it had been forced to cut some of its deals, as figures showed that holiday bookings in the UK were down by four per cent on last year.

The firm blamed the slowdown on war fears and a trend to book flights nearer the departure date.

However, a spokesman for Newcastle Airport said its operators were reviewing capacity, but that adjustments had been minor, with some firms even adding to capacity.

Teesside Airport spok-esman John Waiting said there had been no effect on scheduled flights and the downturn in package tours was less than four per cent.

Ed Anderson, managing director of Leeds-Bradford Airport, said that although there had been some cutbacks on package holidays, other scheduled flights were selling well.

He said that low-cost flight operator Jet2 was "more than compensating for any downturn" and the airport's passenger numbers for January and February were up by at least a quarter.