Heathrow regains crown as Europe's busiest airport

time:2023-06-09 05:10:35source:NBC News author:news

Heathrow has regained its crown as Europe's busiest airport, according to its latest passenger data.

The west London airport said it hosted 5.8 million passengers between July and September, more than rivals in cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

A year ago, it was Europe's 10th busiest airport, something it blamed on Covid pandemic travel rules.

Despite the rebound, passengers numbers were still 15% below pre-pandemic levels, it added.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said it had grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe.

"I am proud of the way our team has worked with airlines and their ground handlers to get 18 million passengers successfully away over summer," he explained.

"While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world-class service people should expect from the UK's hub airport as soon as possible."

But the airport insists the outlook for future demand "remains uncertain" due to "growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid and the escalating situation in Ukraine".

It added: "However, we expect peak days at Christmas to be very busy."

Mr Holland-Kaye said the "vast majority" of passengers travelling through the airport this summer had "had a very good experience".

This is despite staff shortages forcing the airport to cap the number of departing passengers to 100,000 a day in July.

It came after long queues and problems with baggage handling over the summer.

The cap is set to end on 29 October.

After this, Heathrow says it is working with airline partners to develop a more targeted mechanism, which "protects passenger service during peak periods"

Heathrow has declared its "focus" over the next 12 months is to get capacity, service levels and resilience back to pre-pandemic levels.

Transport correspondent Katy Austin

After two years blighted by Covid travel restrictions, this summer was extraordinary in a different way.

Demand roared back, but many airports, airlines and other aviation businesses did not have enough staff in place to meet the surge in customers.

Heathrow's cap on the number of passengers who could depart each day caused some advance flight cancellations, but the airport insists it kept a lid on on-the-day disruption while staffing levels were increased.

However, today's news contains a strong warning that significant challenges still lie on the road to international travel's recovery.

And despite saying staffing levels are better, the fact Heathrow still thinks it necessary to have a plan for managing capacity at peak times over the winter shows things are clearly not back to normal yet.

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