Heathrow passenger numbers down 60% as cancellations mount

ByTravelling For Business

December 10, 2021
Heathrow passenger numbers down 60% as cancellations mount

Heathrow Airport has reported a significant decline in passenger numbers for November, with figures showing a 60% drop compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The UK’s largest airport attributed this decrease to new travel restrictions and high cancellations among business travellers concerned about being trapped overseas during the Christmas period as the Omicron variant spreads.

The recent government-imposed travel restrictions, including mandatory pre-departure and post-arrival Covid-19 tests for passengers arriving in the UK, have further eroded travel confidence. Heathrow predicted it would take several years for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels.

An airport update highlighted the economic impact of these travel restrictions, particularly on business travel: “[The] high level of cancellations by business travellers concerned about being trapped overseas because of pre-departure testing shows the potential harm to the economy of travel restrictions.”

The new restrictions have also diminished the positive impact of reopening the crucial travel corridor to North America for business and holiday travel last month. Additionally, the government has added eleven African countries to the red list, requiring travellers from these nations to quarantine upon arrival in the UK.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, urged the government to allow Brits to isolate at home to reunite with their families for Christmas. He stated, “It would send a strong signal that restrictions on travel will be removed as soon as safely possible to give passengers the confidence to book for 2022, opening up thousands of new jobs for local people at Heathrow. Let’s reunite families for Christmas.”

Heathrow suggested that a clear signal from the government about the removal of travel restrictions could instill confidence among employers at the airport to hire thousands of staff in preparation for a potential increase in business next summer.

Despite these challenges, Heathrow anticipates a slow recovery in 2022, projecting around 45 million passengers by the end of the year – just over half of the numbers seen before the pandemic.

In contrast, Tui, Europe’s largest package holiday operator, expressed optimism about a rebound in bookings for next summer, expecting them to reach 2019 levels. However, Heathrow cautioned that a full recovery for the aviation industry is still years away.

“We do not expect that international travel will recover to 2019 levels until at least all travel restrictions (including testing) are removed from all the markets that we serve, at both ends of the route, and there is no risk of new restrictions, such as quarantine, being imposed,” the airport stated.