| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

London’s Heathrow records lowest annual passenger numbers since 1972

Last year, London’s main airport, Heathrow, witnessed its lowest number of passengers since 1972 and faced larger losses as the coronavirus epidemic reduced demand for business travel and vacations.

In 2021, the number of passengers is expected to fall to 19.4 million. Heathrow also reported a pretax loss of 1.79 billion pounds ($2.43 billion) for 2021, bringing total losses during the pandemic to 3.8 billion pounds owing to decreased passenger traffic and high fixed expenses.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye predicted that the airport will fulfill its objective of more than doubling passengers to 45.5 million this year, despite the fact that demand would be “very peaky” and centered on British school vacations.

Passenger numbers were currently 23% behind forecast, but he said there were signs of recovery, with the airport seeing some of its busiest days in two years as families went skiing during the school break last week.

“Summer in particular we think will be quite busy,” he said in an interview. “After two years of staycations, people want to get some guaranteed sunshine.”

He said Heathrow was working with airlines to scale-up its operations and reopen Terminal 4 for the summer peak.

But while outbound tourism had been boosted by the removal of restrictions in Britain, Holland-Kaye said inbound tourism and business travel remained suppressed, including transatlantic routes, because of testing requirements in other countries.

He said he did not expect travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until all restrictions had been removed and passengers were confident they would not be reimposed.

Heathrow is awaiting the aviation regulator’s final proposals on what it can charge passengers for the 2022-2027 period, after it criticized the airport’s plan to raise charges by nearly half. Airlines have also voiced their opposition.

Holland-Kaye said if the regulator did not rectify “major mistakes” in its initial proposals, there could be a return to the “Heathrow hassle” of 15 years ago.

“If we get it right, we can continue to have the seamless journeys that people have been used to, and the price for doing that is less than 2% on the ticket price,” he said.

  • Reuters