Heathrow loses out on 1.3 million pax in Dec/Jan as Omicron ‘continues to bite’

By Luke Barras-hill |

While bookings for outbound tourism are recovering, inbound tourism and business travel are weak.

Travel demand fell by more than 56% in January versus pre-pandemic levels as the ‘Omicron hangover’ continued to dent passenger confidence, Heathrow Airport has said.

More than 1.3 million passengers either cancelled or did not book trips as a result of constraints on travel in December and January.

As reported, the government has today (11 February) ended remaining restrictions for vaccinated passengers.

“After a tough Christmas, Omicron has continued to bite and this has been a weak start to the year,” commented Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye. “As short-lived as the additional travel restrictions were, they ruined the travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers in the last two months.

“Today’s removal of restrictions for vaccinated passengers in and out of the UK offers a ray of hope, but the Omicron hangover proves demand remains fragile and at risk of new variants of concern the government needs to set out a playbook for managing future variants that allows travel and trade to keep flowing.”

REFRESHED SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY

While outbound bookings are reviving, demand for inbound tourism and business travel remains weak, says Heathrow, which has called on the government to outline a ‘playbook’ for managing future Covid variants and seek to harmonise travel rules.

This dearth in inbound travel is linked to the combination of Covid-19 levels in the UK and other countries, international testing requirements and the risk of fresh border closures in the event of a new variant of concern, continues Heathrow.

Heathrow is maintaining its forecast for 2022 at just over half of pre-pandemic levels, arguing that the summer travel period can recover the weak start to the year.

The airport has introduced several new retail concepts in the past few months, including at Terminal 2 (to view the full report, click here).

In related news, Heathrow unveiled this week a refreshed sustainability strategy covering the next 10 years.

In consultation with local and national stakeholders, Heathrow has released its plan for the decade ahead with a refreshed sustainability strategy.

Entitled ‘Heathrow 2.0: Connecting People and Planet’, the plan aims to supercharge the airport’s recovery from the pandemic and sets out targets for reducing fossil fuel carbon from aviation, among other areas.

Building on the previous sustainability strategy launched five years ago, it includes a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

By 2030, the airport has committed to slash up to 15% of carbon from flights [compared with 2019] and at least 45% of on-the-ground carbon emissions, with emphasis being placed on ramping up a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) policy.

In addition, the airport has announced the launch of its ‘Sustainable Travel Zone’ – a network of subsidised routes to and from the airport in a bid to increase the use of public transport while reducing congestion and improving local air quality.

“The launch of our refreshed Heathrow 2.0 strategy is a landmark moment in our sustainability journey, one which accelerates the shift in our industry towards a greener future,” commented Holland-Kaye. “Decisive action needs to be taken this decade to remain on track for net zero and 2.0 sets out the roadmap to get us there. Not only will we cut carbon, but our ambitious strategy will maintain Heathrow’s leadership in innovation, social mobility and community engagement.”

For more on Heathrow 2.0, click here.

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