Heathrow says travel may not return to pre-Covid levels until 2026

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Unfortunately, the world was not prepared for a pandemic. Let’s be ready for the next one


Heathrow Airport has warned that air travel may not return to pre-Covid levels until 2026 despite improving passenger numbers over the past three months, as it reported losses since the start of the pandemic reached £ 3.4 billion.

The airport said international travel may be “on the verge of a recovery” but has a “long way to go”.

Heathrow has announced its first quarter of passenger growth since the start of the pandemic as the easing of restrictions begins to unleash pent-up demand.

Passenger numbers in the three months leading up to the end of September returned to 28% of pre-pandemic levels, while freight reached 90% of its levels during the equivalent period in 2019.

Despite the increase in recent months, losses at Heathrow have increased throughout the year. The number of passengers for the first nine months reached 10.2 million, compared to 19 million for the same period last year.

As a result, Heathrow reported a loss of just over £ 1bn for the nine months to the end of September, compared to a loss of £ 786m in the same months last year. The company warned in its results announcement that traffic may not fully recover for five years.

John Holland-Kaye, Managing Director of Heathrow, said the UK was “on the verge of a recovery that will unleash pent-up demand, create new quality jobs and see UK trade come back to life … But it risk a hard landing if it is not guaranteed for the long term.

Holland-Kaye called for focusing on the global immunization program to speed up the reopening of international travel without testing requirements, and called for “fair” financial regulation.


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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last week authorized Heathrow to significantly increase its landing charges from next summer, but ruled out the airport’s proposal to nearly double the charges.

Heathrow had requested that fees vary from £ 32 to £ 43 per passenger as it sought to recoup losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, well above the provisional cap proposed by the CAA for next year to £ 30 per customer.

The airport said the regulator’s proposals did not go far enough to ensure investors could get a fair return, which was vital to securing future private investment.

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