Heathrow drops to Europe’s second largest airport

By Bev Fearis, published 28/10/20

Paris Charles de Gaulle has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport, according to the latest passenger figures from the London airport.

Heathrow is blaming the UK Government’s slow progress on testing and a second wave of Covid for a sharp drop in passenger numbers and has revised down its forecasts.

In a trading update today, it said passenger numbers are now expected to be 22.6m in 2020 and 37.1m in 2021, compared to a June forecast of 29.2m in 2020 and 62.8m in 2021. These numbers compare with 82m passengers in 2019.

“Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing,” said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye.

“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. 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.”

Despite the drastic drop in passenger numbers, Heathrow insists it has sufficient cash reserves for the next 12 months "even under an extreme scenario with no revenue" and “well into 2023” under its current forecast.

It said investor confidence remains strong with 94% of creditors agreeing a waiver on financial covenants until the end of 2021.