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Heathrow suffers 'catastrophic' 82% slump in passengers — and warns it will get worse

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
Heathrow warned on a 'catastrophic' hit to traffic. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Heathrow warned on a 'catastrophic' hit to traffic. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Heathrow passenger numbers have fallen for an eighth month in a row, with traffic down 82.4% year-on-year in October.

Airport chiefs called it another “month of catastrophic decline,” but warned in a statement on Wednesday: “November is likely to be even worse.”

England’s new lockdown means travelling away from home is not allowed other than in limited circumstances such as work and education, including overseas travel.

Heathrow said long-haul and key trade markets had suffered the worst declines in traffic, “due to the government’s debilitating quarantine requirements.”

Overall cargo volumes were down 23% last month compared with the previous year, with exports to North America taking a significant hit.

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In a stark attack on the government, it said: “The lack of a testing regime has left British airports unable to compete with EU rivals, the refusal to offer English and Welsh airports business rates relief runs the risk of worsening an already challenging situation and the plans to end VAT-free shopping threatens to kick our industry when its down.”

The airport is already offering COVID-19 tests to passengers travelling to other countries, but they have not yet been approved for UK arrivals.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, said: “Aviation is the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, critical for exports of goods and services and imports of vaccines, as well as inbound tourism, students and foreign direct investment.

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“Lack of government action is weakening our sector, making it harder for us to support the eventual economic recovery and help deliver the prime minister’s vision of a global Britain.”

Passenger numbers on domestic flights fell by 71.9% year-on-year in October, while EU traffic was down 75.2%, Asia-Pacific traffic down 87.4%, and North American traffic down 94.6%.

A total of 1.25m passengers passed through its terminals last month.

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