Passenger Numbers at Heathrow Still Half Pre-Covid

Airport CEO blames Omicron for slow start to the year

Heathrow Terminal 5, departure hall. Picture: Oxyman


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Heathrow Airport has had a weak start to the year as passenger numbers were half of what they were before Covid, according to its CEO.

Just 2.6 million passengers travelled through the airport in January 2022, nearly 56 per cent less than in January 2019 before the Covid pandemic began.

Another 1.3 million people either cancelled or did not book trips during December and January, the airport said. Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said the Omicron variant was to blame for the slow start to 2022.

Mr Holland-Kaye said, “After a tough Christmas, Omicron has continued to bite and this has been a weak start to the year. As short-lived as the additional travel restrictions were, they ruined the travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers in the last two months.”

The Omicron variant emerged at the end of November last year, triggering a reintroduction of Covid restrictions in the UK, as well as temporary international border closures. Many travellers were forced to cancel Christmas breaks as a result.

Heathrow Airport still remains optimistic that it will meet its forecast of 45 million passengers for 2022 due to a predicted surge in Brits booking summer holidays abroad.

However, according to the airport, the number of tourists and business travellers coming to the UK from overseas remains low because of lingering Covid restrictions abroad. It comes as the UK continues to roll back on testing requirements for travellers.

From this Friday (11 February), fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK no longer have to take a day two lateral flow test. Holland-Kaye called on the government to come up with a plan to protect the travel industry from further variants.

He said, “Today’s removal of restrictions for vaccinated passengers in and out of the UK offers a ray of hope, but the Omicron hangover proves demand remains fragile, and at risk to new variants of concern and Government needs to set out a playbook for managing future variants that allows travel and trade to keep flowing.”

Joe Talora - Local Democracy Reporter

February 11, 2022

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