As the airport prepares to relax its current passenger restriction, London Heathrow has cautioned that a restoration to pre-Covid demand would likely take “many years.” The UK’s major airport said it was on track to serve between 60 and 62 million people in 2022, a 25 percent decrease from 2019.
“Headwinds of a global economic crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the impact of Covid-19 mean we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years, except at peak times,” said Heathrow in an update.
Due to labor shortages, Heathrow had to enforce a daily restriction of 100,000 leaving passengers beginning in mid-July. This limitation will be lifted on Sunday (30 October), the first day of the winter flying season, but the airport has warned that more action may be taken during peak travel days over the Christmas break.
“We are working with airlines to agree on a highly targeted mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on a small number of peak days in the lead-up to Christmas,” added the airport.
“This would encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks, and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures.”
Heathrow stated that its first objective is to “rebuild the airport eco-system to handle peak demand.” However, this implies that airport operators would have to hire and train up to 25,000 security-cleared workers, which will be a “huge logistical challenge.” The airport also stated that it had formed a recruiting task group to assist in filling vacancies and that it was collaborating with the government on a review of airline ground handling services.
During the first nine months of 2022, Heathrow served 44.2 million passengers, including 18 million during the summer months. During the first nine months of 2021, the airport only serviced 10.2 million passengers. Revenue increased by 203 percent year on year, from £695 million in 2021 to £2.1 billion this year, yet the airport nevertheless reported an adjusted deficit of £442 million. The airport is still pleading with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to be permitted to raise its per-passenger fees, which airlines using Heathrow strongly reject.
Current CAA recommendations would reduce the airport’s passenger costs over the next five years, but Heathrow stated this plan “highlighted multiple flaws,” potentially leading to “insufficient investment in the servicing of current and future consumer demands.”
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, added: “We have lifted the summer cap and are working with airlines and their ground handlers to get back to full capacity at peak times as soon as possible.
“As we look to the future, we encourage the CAA to think again at stimulating the long-term investment that will deliver the smooth and predictable journeys consumer value most, rather than focusing on short-term pricing which we have seen only benefits airline profits.”
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