“Strong foundation for growth” as Heathrow confirms 79m pax in 2023

By Luke Barras-hill |

In reaching 79.1m passengers, Heathrow has clawed back 98% of its 2019 volume.

More than 6.6 million travellers used Heathrow Airport (LHR) in December as total passenger traffic climbed to 79 million in 2023, the operator confirmed today (11 January).

The busy crescendo to the holiday travel season delivered an average of 216,000 daily passengers for the month in question, with Friday 22 December peaking with almost 250,000 passengers passing through the terminals.

On 25 December, Heathrow processed 142,000 passengers and served almost 800 arrival and departure flights – its busiest Christmas Day on record.

“As we move into the New Year, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all our Team Heathrow colleagues and partners for their hard and successful work over the busy festive period, which went really well in terms of service and operations,” stated Heathrow Airport CEO Thomas Woldbye.

“By ending 2023 on a high, a strong foundation is laid for 2024 during which Heathrow will continue to grow and to facilitate the UK’s potential for global growth.”

Projected revenue +26% in full-year

Terminal 5, home to British Airways, recorded in excess of 33m passengers – the second time it has achieved the feat since opening 15 years ago – and handled 2.6m passengers in December alone.

In reaching 79,152,000 passengers in 2023, Heathrow grew its traffic by 28.5% compared to 2022 and is now at 98% of its 2019 traffic level.

The result surpasses the 74m passenger forecast for full-year 2023 contained in its June 2023 investor report.

Heathrow posted impressive growth in passenger traffic to Asia Pacific in 2023.

Passenger traffic to Asia Pacific markets recorded the most impressive growth in Jan-Dec 2023, up 76% to hit 9.8 million.

As reported, passenger traffic in the first nine months of 2023 rose 34.4% to 59.4m.

Cementing its position as the fourth busiest airport globally, LHR now has 24 routes handling more than one million passengers, including New York (JFK), Dubai International (DXB), Hamad International (DOH), Los Angeles International (LAX), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Singapore (SIN) and Toronto (YYZ).

Revenue jumped 30.1% to £2,739 million, helped on by the 24.5% rise in retail income, which includes retail concessions and car parking.

Thomas Woldbye, CEO, Heathrow

Heathrow CEO Thomas Woldbye.

For the 11 months through November, Heathrow handled 72.5m passengers – a 30.2% increase year-on-year.

In a December 2023 investor report, the London hub announced it is forecasting total revenue in full-year 2023 to jump 26.1% year-on-year to £3,673m, boosted by the recovery in passenger numbers.

Retail income is tipped to rise 21.5% to £685m.

On 18 October, former Copenhagen Airports CEO Woldbye officially took over as the new chief of Heathrow following the departure of John Holland-Kaye.

“In my first couple of months, I have been out and about getting to know Heathrow’s day-to-day operations,” said Woldbye in the December investor report.

“At the same time, I have my eyes on the future, considering how we can make the airport even better for shareholders, passengers, airlines and Team Heathrow partners.

“Over the next three years, we will deliver value accretive infrastructure projects that focus on the passenger experience, continue to lay the necessary foundations to reach net zero by 2050 and maintain a resilient operation.”

Heathrow is due to release its full-year 2023 results in February.

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