Heathrow says demand unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for years

London Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, cautioned that demand is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels for “a number of years” and indicated caps on passenger numbers were not fully off the table.  

Heathrow said it expected total passenger numbers for 2022 to reach between 60 million and 62 million, around 25% less than 2019. 

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“Headwinds of a global economic crisis, war in Ukraine and the impact of COVID-19 mean we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for a number of years, except at peak times,” the airport said in a statement on financial results for the first nine months of 2022.

Heathrow also said while it was removing a cap on passenger capacity from October 30, 2022, it was working with airlines on a plan that would “align supply and demand” on a small number of days during the busy Christmas travel period. 

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The airport implemented passenger caps over summer 2022, effectively preventing airlines from selling too many tickets, due to staff shortages.  

“This would encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks, and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures,” the airport commented in the statement on October 26, 2022.  

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For the nine months to September 30, 2022, Heathrow continued to make losses, but much reduced compared to the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its underlying losses reached £0.4 billion ($462 million) in the period, adding to losses already incurred over the last two years of £4 billion ($4.6 billion).

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