LONDON – Heathrow Airport in its shockingly revealing report produced today mentioned that, at least 600,000 passengers canceled their travel plans to fly from the hub in December 2021.
This is due to the increasing Omicron transmission that sparked travel restrictions.
These reported figures have sent trimmers among airport operators across the country along with the forefront Heathrow Airport.
The report outlined that, merely 19.4 million passengers traveled through Heathrow in 2021, a steep decline of 12.3% to that of 2020 figures when the pandemic began. The report further pointed that, these numbers are less than a quarter of pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019.
As the Omicron variant started surging across parts of the African Continent and Europe in late November, the reimposition of travel restrictions started coming into action in parts of the world.
For the UK, it meant pre-departure lateral flow test, self-isolation until negative results, and a series of PCR tests.
This prompted travel confidence amongst people, which led to many people scrapping their pre-planned holidays and other travel plans over the festive season.
However, the new rules were relaxed later for fully vaccinated travelers, after growing concerns from the travel and aviation industry, which pointed out that they were ineffective due to Omicron spreading widely within the UK.
CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye expressed his concerns by saying, “These figures have underlined the crisis in the industry and uncertainty facing travelers. A return to normal ‘could be years away.”
Mr. Holland-Kaye further stated that “There are currently travel restrictions, such as testing, on all Heathrow routes-the aviation industry will only fully recover when these are all lifted and there is no risk that they will be re-imposed at short notice, a situation which is likely to be years away.”
Mr. Holland-Kaye also warned that “this creates ‘enormous uncertainty for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the aviation regulator, as it prepares to set a five-year cap on Heathrow’s passenger charges.”
Mr. Holland-Kaye urged the CAA by saying “the regulator must focus on an outcome that improves service, incentives growth and maintains affordable private financing.”
In recent reviews of its pricing and policy regime, the CAA has increased the cap on Heathrow’s price per passenger from £19.60 to £30.19, effective from 1st January 2022, the sudden spike of significant amount sending airlines in distress and sparking complaints stating rise was far too high.
The CAA is expected to announce a long-term cap running for the summer to 2027 in the coming weeks.
The report highlighted that the travel to and from the Asia-Pacific region in 2021 was significantly hit, with levels down by 40.3% in comparison to 2020.
While other regions witnessed double-digit growth, the dip was from non-EU and North America, being 13.8% and 13.6% respectively.
In contrast, the domestic travel market saw a surge of 21.1% compared to that of 2020 figures.