Heathrow Airport will get a new runway by late 2020s

Heathrow reclaims title of busiest airport in Europe

Image credit: Tony Hisgett

Heathrow has once again become Europe's busiest airport, after foot traffic fell over the summer due to bottlenecks in the number of flights that it could sustain.

Close to 5.8m passengers travelled through the West London airport during September. While this is still 15 per cent below 2019 levels, Heathrow recorded the busiest summer out of any European hub airport.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of flights taken worldwide during 2020 fell to levels not seen in decades. Heathrow reported a 72.2 per cent fall in passengers during the year compared to 2019.

Passenger service levels, which had been higher than any European hub between January and June this year, dipped at the beginning of July as passenger demand started to exceed the aviation sector's overall capacity.

This improved significantly after Heathrow introduced a departing passenger cap, which kept supply and demand in balance.

But despite this year’s recovery, the airport said that the outlook for future demand “remains uncertain” due to growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid, and the escalating situation in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, it said that the Christmas period is expected to be “very busy,” and with resource levels across the airport, airlines and their ground handlers increasing, it is expected that the cap on passenger numbers will be removed by the end of October.

“Our focus over the next 12 months is to get capacity, service levels and resilience back to the high levels that they were before the pandemic. This relies on having a regulatory settlement that provides enough cash flow to invest in our operations and capital projects, and to maintain an investment grade credit rating,” the airport said.

It added that it welcomed yesterday’s announcement from the International Civil Aviation Organisation to target net zero carbon emissions for international aviation by 2050.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and we’ve delivered a great passenger experience to the vast majority of travellers.

“I’m proud of the way our team has worked with airlines and their ground handlers to get 18 million passengers successfully away this summer. While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world class service people should expect from the UK’s hub airport as soon as possible.”

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