Heathrow’s yearly passenger counts fall to near 50-year low

As a result of the UK’s stricter coronavirus travel guidelines, Heathrow has disclosed that it was the only hub airport in Europe to witness a decrease in passenger counts in 2021, making it the only one in the world.

During the last year, just 19.4 million passengers passed through the airport in west London.

Compared to the preceding 12 months, this marks a decrease of 12.3 percent, and it is the lowest yearly total recorded since 1972.

In an attempt to explain its low performance in compared to European competitors, the airport pointed to the United Kingdom’s stricter foreign travel restrictions.

Quarantine hotels were still in existence in the United Kingdom for some months after they had been phased out in most other European countries, discouraging many people from traveling overseas.

Later in 2021, the United Kingdom became the first country in Europe to require both a pre-departure test and a post-arrival test for all arrivals, regardless of whether or not they had received vaccinations.

Frankfurt (increased 32.2 percent year on year in 2021), Amsterdam’s Schiphol (up 22.0 percent year on year in 2021), and Paris Charles de Gaulle (up 22.0 percent year on year in 2021) are among the European hub airports that have had year on year increases in passenger traffic (up 17.7 percent ).

Even though Heathrow has made cost reductions of £870 million over the previous two years, the airport has nevertheless suffered pre-tax losses of £3.8 billion as a result of high fixed expenses and low passenger numbers.

The airport’s management expressed optimism for a strong summer rebound, which they estimate to contribute to 45.5 million people utilizing the facility this year, although they reported lower-than-expected passenger figures in January and February.

CEO John Holland-Kaye called 2021 as “the worst year in the history of Heathrow,” and he predicted that demand would not recover to pre-pandemic levels until approximately 2025 or 2026 at the earliest.

In an interview with the PA news agency, he said, “I believe it will take a long time since we are a global hub airport, and it is not only about the laws for travel in the United Kingdom, but also about the rules for travel in other countries.”

In the current climate, two-thirds of all of the markets into which we fly have some kind of travel restriction in place, such as testing or quarantine.

All of them must be lifted in order for things to return to normal, and there must be no danger of a handbrake turn, with new restrictions being imposed when there are variations of concern.

“I believe it will take some time for the epidemic to be fully contained.”

The demand, though, is “beginning to revive,” according to Mr Holland-Kaye, and the airport is working with airlines to “ramp up our operations.”

Terminal 4 is scheduled to reopen in July in time for the summer peak season, when passenger numbers are likely to climb significantly.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming more people back to Heathrow to enjoy the pleasures of travel and to keep Britain’s economy back on track,” Mr Holland-Kaye said.

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