The effects of the pandemic on passenger numbers at Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport saw its passenger numbers drop in 2020 to almost a quarter of what they were in 2019, data from the airport has revealed.

The airport saw just 22.1 million passengers last year, compared to 80.9 million the year before, as Heathrow suffered a £2bn loss amid the global pandemic.

It was the first time in a decade that Heathrow’s passenger numbers had gone down, following nine consecutive years of growth.

The graph below shows the passenger numbers at Heathrow Airport from January 2020 to January 2021.

More than half of Heathrow’s 2020 passengers flew in January and February, before in March, the Government limited travel to essential only and numbers slumped.

At its lowest in April, just 206,324 passengers used the airport.

Passenger numbers briefly rose to 1,418,683 in August, as summer holidays were enabled by travel corridors, areas where Brits did not have to quarantine on return.

However, passenger numbers remained much lower than average, due to ongoing travel restrictions and a fear of catching the coronavirus.

Trade unions such as Prospect represent aviation industry workers and engineers.

Prospect’s deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “The aviation industry has been hit severely by the pandemic and is unlikely to recover quickly.

“Passenger numbers are likely to remain below normal for at least another two years because there is a significant chance that intermittent travel restrictions will persist even after quarantine has ended and demand is projected to take a long time to recover.

“Business travel is forecast to recover much more slowly and possibly only partially, which will have a major impact on Heathrow’s revenues.

“We have already seen significant job losses and many more on furlough in airlines, airports, air traffic control and in the wider industry.

“Without targeted support from the Government, there is a real risk that vital infrastructure is permanently degraded. If this happens it will be much harder for the wider economy, particularly tourism, to recover.”

Once a nation of flight lovers, the ongoing worries of catching the virus have left many reluctant to immediately get on a plane when it is legal again, which will undoubtedly have an effect on the future of the aviation industry.

Large scale job losses and aviation uncertainty have led a number of pilots and industry workers to retrain, as it seems the aviation industry will take a number of years to recover from the effects of the global pandemic.

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