The Heathrow airport has lost its status as the largest European airport after the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of testing at airport hit passenger numbers, besides losing £1.5 billion in nine months this year until September, results released on Wednesday showed.
Heathrow, with 18.97 million passengers during the period, has been overtaken by the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which had 19.27mn. Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt airports are close behind, Heathrow said, adding that in 2019 it had 81mn passengers.
The company said the forecast for demand has been revised down: Passenger numbers are now forecast to be 22.6mn in 2020 and 37.1mn in 2021, compared to its June forecast of 29.2mn in 2020 and 62.8mn in 2021.
“The reduction is caused by the second wave of Covid and slow progress on introducing testing by the UK government to reopen borders with ‘high risk’ countries…The UK Government has announced an intention to introduce testing for passengers from high risk countries by 1st December to help restart the UK economy,” the company said.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing. European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits.”
“Paris has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for the first time ever…Bringing in pre-departure Covid tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot airbridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”
The company added that its finances remained robust. Liquidity at the end of September was boosted in October to £4.5 billion. Cash reserves, it said, were sufficient for the next year even under an extreme scenario with no revenue, and well into 2023 under its current forecast.