Heathrow Airport has recorded a loss of £1.5 billion in the first nine months of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84% compared with the same period in 2019, leading the west London hub to be overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as the busiest in Europe.
Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt are ‘close behind’, Heathrow warned.
Coronavirus testing regimes have been implemented at all three ‘continental rivals’, it added.
Heathrow’s third-quarter revenue fell by 72% year on year to £239 million, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37 million.
Heathrow has reported a £1.5 billion loss due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic
Chief executive 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, and Frankfurt and Amsterdam are quickly gaining ground.
‘Let’s make Britain a winner again.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive officer of Heathrow Airport, urged passenger testing
Surge in passengers for July but numbers down a tenth on last year
The number of passengers flying into UK airports surged to 1.3million people in July – compared to just 200,000 arriving in each month during April, May and June.
But the surge in arrivals last month is just a tenth of the number who flew into Britain during July last year.
Figures released by the Home Office earlier this summer made dim reading for the struggling aviation industry.
After Gatwick announced it was cutting up to 600 jobs, the passenger numbers show the number of arrivals compared to July 2019 is down by 89 per cent.
Around 11.1million people flew into the UK’s airports last July, compared to 1.3million arrivals this month.
Heathrow Airport was one of the hardest hit, just 867,000 people travelled through the West London airport in July, compared with 7.7million at the same time last year.
‘Bringing in pre-departure Covid tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot air bridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.’
Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched a taskforce to develop methods of reducing the 14-day self-isolation period for people arriving in the UK from non-exempt locations.
He said the Government is considering a “test and release regime” which would still involve a quarantine period of at least a week.
Heathrow insisted its finances “remain robust”, with £4.5 billion of liquidity.
It said its cash reserves are “sufficient for the next 12 months even under an extreme scenario with no revenue”.
Industry body ACI Europe warned on Tuesday that nearly 200 airports across the continent face insolvency in the coming months unless demand for air travel starts to recover by the end of the year.
Airports Council International Europe said 193 out of 740 airports in the region will soon struggle to find enough money to carry on.
Director General Olivier Jankovec said: ‘The figures published today paint a dramatically bleak picture.
‘Eight months into the crisis all of Europe’s airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations.
“In the midst of a second wave, ensuring safe air travel continues to be our primary concern. It’s crucial that we reduce the risks of importation and dissemination as much as possible. But surely we can do a much better job of reducing those risks by testing air passengers rather than with quarantines that cannot be enforced.”
How Covid has crushed 2020 travel plans – leaving many holiday companies facing a bleak winter…
By Jo Tweedy
The travel industry has faced plenty of adversity before 2020, with terrorism, economic downturns and the previous threat of pandemics – including the 2003 SARS outbreak – all impacting travel agents and tour operators in the past.
However, most would agree that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is the biggest single blow ever dealt to the industry… with quarantine, a fear of the virus spreading on planes and in airports, and the promise of a second wave this winter already proving the death knell for some smaller operators.
In the UK, while the summer saw a chance for the staycation market to bounce back from the wiped-out Easter and May holidays, Boris Johnson’s rule of six – and the likelihood of even tougher restrictions coming soon – has ensured that many British hotels and self-catering properties are preparing for huge losses over the winter.
The travel industry faces its toughest ever winter, with the threat of a second wave likely to further deter people from booking holidays
For companies who rely on overseas operations, including airlines, the picture looks even bleaker, with countries on the ‘travel corridor’ list changing frequently, meaning there’s little certainty for holidaymakers who might ordinarily break for the sun.
This week, the general secretary of the TSSA trade union, Manuel Cortes, made an impassioned plea for the Government to do more to save the beleaguered holiday industry, with an upturn in fortunes now looking increasingly unlikely until at least Spring 2021.
He told this year’s Institute of Travel and Tourism virtual conference: ‘I am saying that no stone should be left unturned to support our industry. At the moment we are seeing nothing really [from government].
‘Whenever this virus is conquered we will all need a well-deserved holiday and sadly if the government doesn’t take measures to preserve our industry we will not have an industry.
‘In the short term, the industry cannot compete. What we need is the government to step in and hold the industry’s hand so we can emerge stronger than before.
‘It has done so in the past for the banking sector, why can’t it do the same for the travel trade?’