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Heathrow warns of looming ‘winter freeze’ as Covid losses pass £4 billion

·2-min read
Heathrow has warned of a passenger “winter freeze” on the horizon  (PA)
Heathrow has warned of a passenger “winter freeze” on the horizon (PA)

Heathrow has warned of a “winter freeze” on the horizon as the soaring cost of living, rising fuel costs for airlines and slowing growth dent demand for getaways.

The UK’s biggest airport said it was braced for another loss this year as it admitted that losses since the start of the pandemic had now reached a mammoth £4 billion.

Heathrow said revenue climbed to £516 million in the first quarter of 2022 but cautioned that demand for flights was still “very volatile”.

January and February were “much weaker than expected” due to restrictions brought in to tackle the Omicron strain of Covid-19.

Heathrow raised its 2022 passenger forecast from 45.5 million to 52.8 million, representing a return to 65% of pre-pandemic levels, on hopes of a summer holiday boom . But the airport expects passenger numbers to “drop off significantly after the summer” as headwinds hit demand.

Like other airports, Heathrow was marred long delays and cancelled flights over Easter. Social media was awash with photos of people queuing in airports over the break. Delays were put down to staff shortages and extra red tape.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, said: “I want to reassure passengers that we’re redoubling our efforts to ensure this summer’s journeys go safely and smoothly.”

Heathrow will reopen Terminal 4 by July and is on the hunt for more than 1,000 new security officers to help it handle demand over summer.

The airport is also in the process of “assisting airlines, ground handlers and retailers to fill over 12,000 vacancies across the airport.”

Holland-Kaye said: “These past few weeks have only reinforced our view that passengers want easy, quick and reliable journeys every time they travel and we can continue to deliver that for less than a 2% increase in ticket prices.

“The CAA should be aiming to secure this win for passengers instead of pushing plans which will cut investment in service, increase queues and make delays a permanent feature post-COVID.”

Heathrow said more than 95% of passengers got through security within five minutes during the Easter getaway.

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