Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Heathrow carried fewer passengers in 2021 than in the first year of the pandemic, as a wave of cancellations after the rise of the Omicron variant deepened the crisis for aviation.

At least 600,000 passengers canceled flights from Heathrow in December after discovering the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant that led to the return of strict travel rules, the UK’s largest airport said.

Heathrow also warned against “significant doubt” about how quickly demand for travel would resume, and it predicted that the end of all travel and test rules would be years away.

In the UK, the government has loosened some of the strict rules introduced when the Omicron variant was first discovered, although all travelers still need to take a coronavirus test after entering the country.

“There are currently travel restrictions, such as testing, on all Heathrow routes – the aviation industry will only fully recover once it is all lifted and there is no risk that it will be reinstated at short notice, a situation that is likely to be years. . away, ”said John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow.

A total of 19.4 million passengers passed through the airport in 2021, just a quarter of 2019 levels, and lower than the 22.1 million in 2020, when numbers were helped by a normal start to the year.

Travel to Asia, where many borders are in fact still closed, was hit the hardest, with 40 per cent down at 2020 levels, while the only routes to experience an increase in traffic on domestic commuters were in the UK.

Several travel companies, including British Airways’ holiday arm and Virgin Atlantic, have reported a boost to ticket sales since the changes to UK travel rules last week.

But Heathrow, which relinquished its crown as Europe’s busiest airport during the crisis, used particularly weak comments to urge the British Civil Aviation Authority to allow it to increase landing fees on airlines.

“The regulator needs to focus on an outcome that improves service, encourages growth and maintains affordable private financing,” Holland-Kaye said.

The claim sparked a bitter tussle with airlines, which encouraged the airport’s shareholders to bear more of the financial pain of the crisis.

The CAA gave the green light to the airport last month to increase landing fees from the beginning of this year by 37 per cent from £ 22 to £ 30.19 per passenger, which will apply for an interim period next year when a longer-term deal is decided. word.

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