Heathrow sees 40 years of pax growth in four months; flights removed today

By Faye Bartle |

London's Heathrow Airport.

Heathrow has experienced the equivalent of 40 years of growth in the space of four months. Photo: Heathrow Airports Limited

London’s Heathrow Airport has announced today that nearly six million passengers travelled through the hub in June, totalling 25 million passengers in the first six months of the year.

The ‘unprecedented growth in passenger numbers over the last four months’ matches the passenger growth experienced at the airport over the last 40 years.

It signals the pace of recovery for UK aviation following tumultuous times during the pandemic.

However, despite the airport ‘working to scale-up operations as quickly as possible’, a total of 61 flights out of around 1,100 flights scheduled across the airport were removed today, Monday 11 July.

In a statement, the airport said the rapid passenger growth over the past four months ‘has stretched the entire sector’.

“We are expecting higher passenger numbers in Terminals 3 and 5 today than the airport currently has capacity to serve, and so to maintain a safe operation we have asked some airlines in Terminals 3 and 5 to remove a combined total of 61 flights from the schedule,” said a spokesperson.

“We apologise for the impact to travel plans and we are working closely with airlines to get affected passengers rebooked onto other flights.

“While Heathrow is ramping up resource and will have as many security officers this summer as we had pre-pandemic, airspace constraints across Europe and a lack of airline ground handling staff can pose a risk to the smooth running of operations.

“As a result, we will take action where needed to ensure passengers receive the service level they deserve.”

Heathrow traffic summary, June 2022.

Heathrow Traffic Summary, June 2022.

Managing the travel rebound

The passenger growth at Heathrow comes as travel ramps up for the summer holidays.

“Last month, we saw exponential growth in passenger numbers as nearly six million people got away – the equivalent of 40 years of growth in just four months,” said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye.

“I am very proud of the way that our team is rising to the challenge of growth, and giving excellent service to the vast majority of passengers.

“However, we have already seen times recently when demand exceeds the capacity of the airport, airlines and ground handlers.”

In June, the Department for Transport and CAA asked the aviation sector to review summer schedules, including implementing a slot amnesty to encourage airlines to remove flights without penalty that will minimise further disruption for passengers over the summer getaway.

“We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary,” said Holland-Kaye.

Heathrow Airport.

Heathrow said the rapid passenger growth over the past four months (March-June 2022) ‘has stretched the entire sector’. Photo: Heathrow Airports Limited

The Traffic Summary for June 2022 highlighted how ‘rebuilding capacity quickly is very challenging after the significant reductions in resource across the entire aviation supply chain’.

“Arrivals punctuality is very low as a result of delays at other airports and airspace congestion across Europe and this has compounded the challenge of resource constraints for the airport, airlines, ground handlers and government agencies,” revealed the update.

“In spite of this, we have been able to provide a good level of service for the vast majority of passengers.

“However, despite our best efforts there have been periods in recent weeks, where service levels have not been acceptable, with long queue times, delays for passengers with reduced mobility, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, and we want to apologise to any passengers who have been affected by this.”

Heathrow started recruiting in November last year in anticipation of capacity recovering this summer and reports that by the end of July the hub will have as many people working in security as it did prior to the pandemic.

In addition, Terminal 4 reopened on 14 June to provide more space to passengers.

“We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey,” added Holland-Kaye.

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