Heathrow Airport’s passenger numbers surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time in September, marking a major milestone in the hub’s road to recovery.
Over seven million passengers passed through the UK’s biggest hub in September, up 22 per cent year-on-year and ahead of its 2019 equivalent.
That took the total traffic for the year to date to just over 59m, which is currently up nearly a third on 2022 – when the airport was struggling to get back to its best following the lows of Covid-19.
European and North American passengers continued to make up the lion’s share of the figures, with 1.8m coming from across the pond as Heathrow continues to benefit from rising transatlantic demand.
The return to pre-pandemic traffic levels will mark the end of the runway for long-time chief John Holland-Kaye, whose nine year tenure at the airport will come to an end on the 18th October.
Holland-Kaye said “It has been a privilege to lead the very talented team which in less than a decade transformed Heathrow into a hub airport that the whole nation can be proud of.
“We have built a solid legacy for my successor – Heathrow is now a customer service business, with a clear path to net zero by 2050 and a plan to grow and to connect all of Britain to global growth.”
The West London hub’s combative chief led the airport through one of the most turbulent times in its history, as fleets across the globe were grounded during the pandemic.
But he has faced criticism for Heathrow’s mounting multi-billion debt pile, which has seen it remain lossmaking since 2020.
He has also clashed fiercely with a slew of major airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways owner the IAG, over landing charges at the hub – with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) roped in as both sides launched rival appeals to the aviation watchdog’s verdict on what level they should sit at.
Holland-Kaye will be replaced by Thomas Woldybe, the Danish former head of Copenhagen Airport.