Heathrow Airport says COVID and the situation in Ukraine mean it faces an uncertain year over passenger forecasts, while it is also concerned about Border Force’s ability to cope with a busy summer holiday period.
Overall passenger numbers last month remained nearly 50% down on pre-pandemic levels with only 2.8 million passengers travelling through the UK’s hub airport during February, 15% below forecast
Outbound leisure demand is recovering strongly as countries remove restrictions, but Heathrow said ‘demand from inbound leisure and business travel remains suppressed by the testing and quarantine requirements that are still in place in nearly two-thirds of the markets we serve’.
“While we hope that these will be removed, we also face headwinds from higher fuel prices, longer flight times to destinations impacted by airspace closures, concerns from US travellers over war in Europe and the likelihood of new ‘variants of concern’, which together create huge uncertainty over the passenger forecasts this year,” the airport said.
“Based on the strength of outbound leisure bookings being reported by airlines, peak days in the summer holidays could be very busy, at up to 85% of pre-pandemic levels.
“This is likely to feel even busier in check in because of the additional pre-departure checks.
“This is higher than current airline, handler and airport capacity, so we are putting passengers first by gearing up across the airport for peak demand, working with airlines to reduce check in times and recruiting 12,000 new colleagues, as well as reopening Terminal 4 before July.
“We are particularly concerned over Border Force’s ability to scale up to meet demand.”
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said aviation’s recovery ‘remains overshadowed by war and COVID uncertainty’ and said Heathrow is awaiting on the CAA’s final decision on its revised business plan, H7.
“We need to ensure we are geared up to meet peak potential demand this summer and are relying on the CAA to make a fair financial settlement that incentivises investment to maintain passenger service and encourages airlines and Heathrow to work together to grow passenger numbers,” added Mr Holland-Kaye.