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Heathrow attacks ‘lack of Government action’ after 82% fall in passengers

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Heathrow Airport has criticised a “lack of Government action” after it recorded a “catastrophic” 82% fall in passenger numbers last month.

Some 1.25 million people travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 7.06 million during October 2019.

North American routes saw the biggest drop, down 95% year on year.

Heathrow described October as “the eighth consecutive month of catastrophic decline” and warned that England’s ban on leisure travel means “November is likely to be even worse”.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye 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.

“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.”

Heathrow said the failure to introduce a coronavirus testing system to ease the 14-day quarantine requirement for international arrivals “has left British airports unable to compete with EU rivals”.

Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched a taskforce to develop a “test and release regime”.

Heathrow also warned that the refusal to offer English and Welsh airports business rates relief “runs the risk of worsening an already challenging situation”.

It added that plans to end VAT-free shopping at airports “threatens to kick our industry when it’s down”.

Manchester Airports Group – which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands Airports – reported an 84% drop in passenger numbers in October.

It called for “an urgent package of support” from the Government for the UK aviation industry, including relief from business rates, policing costs and other fixed-cost pressures.