Heathrow Airport arrivals area with passengers

Heathrow on track for record passenger numbers in 2024

Passenger numbers at Heathrow Airport are forecasted to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024 following the busiest start to a year in the airport’s history.

A total of 82.4 million passengers are expected to travel through Heathrow in 2024, higher than the airport’s previous record of 80.9 million in 2019.

The prediction is based on Heathrow having its highest ever volume of passengers between January and April this year, with more than 25 million people travelling through the airport in those four months.

This volume stands as an 8.2% increase on this period in 2023 and a 2% increase on 2019.

If 82.4 million travellers do travel through Heathrow Airport in 2024, that will spell a 10% increase in total passenger numbers over the past decade.

Following a 72.7% decrease in passengers 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, traveller numbers have now seemingly made a full recovery.

Aviation journalist Luke Peters said: “This is largely due the legacy of frustrated demand built up over the COVID pandemic. 

“Travel plans were put on hold during the pandemic, and the bounce back has seen demand surge as people ‘make up for lost time’.

“Heathrow has always been seen as a key gateway between the US and Europe so any increase on connecting traffic between these points during this time have also benefitted the airport.”

The return of the Pacific-Asian market is also attributed to the recovery of Heathrow Airport’s passenger numbers, with countries such as China and Japan having stayed in lockdown for extended periods of time.

Peters added: “Business in the Far East is surging and the amount of business class travel between the UK and places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai and Chengdu in China, is rising rapidly.

“The Far East I believe is forecast to become one of Heathrow’s biggest markets going forward, followed by the Middle East.”

Between 2014-2023 the Middle East saw a 32.6% increase from six million to eight million yearly passengers, while passengers numbers in the North American market increased by around three million.

Peters said: “The propensity for both higher business travel plus the desire for long-haul holidays is the main driver in these increases. 

“Many new routes have opened since the pandemic to the US as well as the Middle East.

“In terms of the latter, the Middle East is the one to watch, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a huge economic boom, with new airlines starting plus existing carriers restarting routes.”

Latin America saw the highest percentage growth over the past decade of ant market, with an 85% increase in yearly traveller numbers between 2014-2023 from 1.1 million to two million. 

Peters said: “Newcomer airlines to Heathrow such as Avianca and LATAM have opened up more routes and more frequencies, plus codeshares with airlines such as British Airways have made onward connections to European destinations through Heathrow easier and stress-free.”

However, domestic passenger numbers have decreased by nearly 20% over the past decade as flights within the UK have become more obsolete.

Peters explained that improved domestic rail services and, crucially, the increase in virtual business meetings, have negated the need for internal flights.

He added that businesses tend to have lower budgets for short-haul travel, leading airports to focus on long-haul flights.

Heathrow Airport is expected to continue seeing rising traveller numbers this year, with it forecasted to be the airport’s busiest summer on record.

Javier Echave, the chief financial officer at Heathrow, said: “On the horizon is Heathrow’s busiest summer yet with more passengers and destinations served than ever before. We’re ready to continue delivering.”

Featured image credit: eGuide Travel via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 licence

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