Heathrow Airport warns of possible travel slowdown this winter


Britain’s biggest airport Heathrow warned of a possible slowdown in travel demand this winter due to the deteriorating economic outlook, the impact of a new wave of COVID-19 and the escalating situation in Ukraine.

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Any drop in demand would be a new blow to the aviation industry, stalling its recovery from the pandemic just as it had taken root over the last six months.

Heathrow, situated west of London, said on Tuesday that while it expected peak Christmas days to be very busy, the outlook was uncertain. Britons face a squeeze on their leisure spending due to rising inflation and higher household bills.

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During September, Heathrow said 5.8 million passengers passed through the airport, 15% below levels seen in 2019.

“While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of COVID, our aim is to get back to full capacity,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said in a statement.

The recovery in passenger numbers, from lows last year when there were fewer travellers at the airport than in the 1970s, was limited by Heathrow’s self-imposed cap on daily passenger departures imposed in July.

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The cap limited flight cancellations as the airport struggled to cope with the rebound in travel due to labour shortages.

Heathrow will remove the 100,000 daily cap at the end of October but it indicated that limits could be brought back on busy winter days.

Heathrow said in a separate statement later on Tuesday that it was “discussing with airlines a number of more targeted options to proactively manage peak demand days over winter if needed”.

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