Heathrow airport has reported its first full quarter of passenger growth since 2019 but says traffic is not expected to fully recover until at least 2026.
It said it has seen “strong pent-up demand as travel restrictions ease”, with passenger numbers in Q3 recovering to 28% of pre-pandemic levels.
Since the start of the pandemic early in 2020, it has made a cumulative loss of £3.4 billion but said it has £4.1 billion of cash “to be able to come through until the market recovers”.
For the nine months to September 30, revenues were £695 million, down 27% year-on-year, and the airport’s loss before tax was £1.4 billion, compared to a pre-tax loss of £1.5 billion in the same period last year.
Passenger numbers were 10.2 million – down by 46% on the 19 million seen in the same period of 2020.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “We are on the cusp of a recovery which will unleash pent-up demand, create new quality jobs and see Britain’s trade roar back to life – but it risks a hard landing unless secured for the long-haul.
“To do that, we need continued focus on the global vaccination programme so that borders can reopen without testing; we need a fair financial settlement from the CAA to sustain service and resilience after 15 years of negative real returns for investors; and we need a progressively increasing global mandate for Sustainable Aviation Fuels so that we can protect the benefits of aviation in a world without carbon.”
However, airlines and aviation bodies have criticised Heathrow over its plans to raise charges next year.
On Monday (October 25), the bosses of three corporate travel associations added their criticism to the row about fees, which could rise rise by 50%.
Clive Wratten, chief of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said: “This is an unprecedented, disproportionate and unjustified increase that risks seriously dampening demand for travel at a time when British business will be seeking to re-build and grow links across the globe.”
Scott Davies, chief executive of the Institute of Travel Management (ITM), added: “This rise will challenge the competitiveness of the UK as a travelling and trading nation, and hamper the ability of the UK travel industry and its workforce to recover.”
And Suzanne Neufang, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) chief executive, commented: “Corporate buyers and even business travellers themselves are facing pressure to minimise travel costs. A significant cost increase will likely impact the number of trips approved and the volume of trips taken which has the potential to depress travel further.”
The BTA, ITM and GBTA “strongly urge” the CAA to limit the rise to the level of RPI inflation.