Heathrow airport posts big loss on UK Covid curbs

Heathrow airport posts big loss on UK Covid curbs

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Heathrow airport posts big loss on UK Covid curbs

Alamy Photo

London’s Heathrow Airport announced yesterday that it narrowed annual losses only slightly in 2021 despite the reopening of global air travel, blaming what it said were stricter passenger curbs in Britain compared to the neighboring EU.

Heathrow recorded pre-tax losses totalling 1.8 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) last year, it said in a statement.

Passenger numbers slumped 12.3 percent to 19.4 million - the lowest annual total since 1972.

The airport, one of the world’s busiest hubs, had already suffered a 2 billion-pound loss in 2020 as the pandemic grounded flights worldwide.

“Heathrow was the only European hub to see a reduction in traffic last year, due to tighter travel restrictions than EU countries,” the airport said.

The U.K. aviation sector had strongly criticised the British government over its long-lasting travel curbs that especially hit the tourism industry.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to scrap all pandemic legal curbs in England from today, urging a shift from government intervention to personal responsibility.

Heathrow said that despite “a slower start to” the new year owing to the emergence of the Omicron variant at the end of 2021, the group was sticking to its forecast of a large rebound in annual passenger numbers to 45.5 million.

Heathrow welcomed 81 million passengers in 2019 before the onset of the pandemic.

The total slumped to 22 million in 2020, mirroring huge falls elsewhere, forcing airlines to slash tens of thousands of jobs.

The aviation sector has recovered gradually as skies reopen and economies emerge from lockdowns.