Passenger numbers at London Heathrow Airport nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, the latest data reveals.
Nearly 80 million people arrived and departed from the airport last year, up approximately 29% from the previous year.
The number almost exceeded the peak of 80.89 million passengers in 2019, after which Covid-19 restrictions caused a decline in air travel.
It comes as the airport announced December was the busiest festive period on record, with an average of 216,000 passengers passing through each day last month, peaking on Friday 22 December at 250,000 passengers.
Lisa Francesca Nand, travel journalist and host of The Big Travel Podcast, said: “Travel’s rapid recovery after years of intermittent border closures demonstrates just how important travelling is to people.
“Whilst most consumers are feeling the pinch of the rise in cost of living, which flights and holiday prices are not immune to, these numbers show just how important travel and indeed holidays are to many of us.
“The old favourites of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and the USA are still our most popular places to head from the UK.
“We are also seeing trends for increasing numbers of people booking trips outside peak periods to save on costs, as well as new peak-period destinations growing, such as northern European countries, possibly due to the hot weather experienced in southern Europe last summer.”
Heathrow’s passenger numbers saw a dramatic decline during the pandemic, with a fall of 73% from 2019 to 2020.
Numbers hit an all-time low in 2021 when fewer than 20 million passengers used the airport.
London Heathrow is the world’s fourth busiest airport when measured by passenger numbers, behind Tokyo, Dubai and Atlanta.
The 2023 data shows unsurprising variation across the year, from a low of 5.20 million passengers in February, to a peak of 7.66 million in July.
Such variation is regularly seen at Heathrow, with a difference of around two million monthly passengers often shown between the winter and summer months.
The west London site, which has two runways, is one of six airports technically associated with the capital, alongside Gatwick, London City, Stansted, Luton and Southend.
Commenting on the latest figures, Heathrow’s CEO Thomas Woldbye said: “As we move into the new year, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all our Team Heathrow colleagues and partners for their hard and successful work over the busy festive period, which went really well in terms of service and operations.
“By ending 2023 on a high, a strong foundation is laid for 2024 during which Heathrow will continue to grow and to facilitate the UK’s potential for global growth.”
Featured image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash