Heathrow Feb pax at 2.8m; war & Covid uncertainty blights aviation recovery

By Luke Barras-hill |

Macroeconomic and geopolitical headwinds create a cocktail of uncertainty for aviation in 2022.

Total passenger numbers at London Heathrow Airport remained almost 50% down in February against pre-pandemic levels.

The UK hub served 2.8 million passengers, 15% below its forecast.

While outbound leisure traffic is recuperating strongly as countries remove travel restrictions, inbound leisure and business travel has been suppressed by testing and quarantine requirements that remain in place across nearly two-thirds of the markets served by Heathrow.

Headwinds from soaring fuel prices, lengthier flight times linked to airspace closures, concerns from US travellers over war in the Ukraine and the threat of new Covid variants has created a perfect storm for passenger forecasts.

Despite this, the airport indicates the peak summer travel period could get very busy, at up to 85% of pre-pandemic levels based on the current strength of bookings being reported by its airlines.

The airport says it is gearing up to meet the anticipated demand by working with carriers to reduce check-in times and is recruiting 12,000 new staff, in addition to reopening Terminal 4 before July.

However, the operator expresses concern over UK Border Force’s ability to meet increased traveller demand.

According to Heathrow’s annual results published last month, retail revenue declined by 7.3% in 2021 (Jan-Dec), year-on-year, as a direct result of reduced passenger numbers.

*Below table courtesy of Heathrow Airport.


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