Heathrow has lost its crown as Europe’s busiest airport after European rivals introduced testing regimes.
Paris Charles de Gaulle has overtaken Heathrow, with Amsterdam and Schiphol “close behind” the London hub. All three continental rivals are testing passengers, but Heathrow said the UK government would only begin testing for passengers from high-risk countries from 1 December.
Heathrow has revised passenger number forecasts compared to its June estimates. It now predicts a total of 22.6 million passengers this year, compared to 80 million in 2019. The airport believes this figure will total 37.1 million in 2021. It had previously forecast 29.2 million for this year and 62.8 million next.
“The reduction is caused by the second wave of Covid and slow progress on introducing testing by the UK government to reopen borders with ‘high risk’ countries,” it said.
The setback has seen losses widen to £1.5 billion in the first nine months of this year, with passenger numbers in the third quarter down 84%. Revenue in the third quarter fell 72% to £239 million and EBITDA fell to £37 million.
The airport has cancelled or paused projects costing more than £650 million.
“Further savings are planned, but we are protecting employment, offering all frontline colleagues a job with market-rate salaries guaranteed at or above the London Living Wage,” it said.
It added: “Cash reserves are sufficient for the next 12 months even under an extreme scenario with no revenue, and well into 2023 under our current forecast.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing.
“European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits.
“Bringing in pre-departure Covid tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot air bridge to America will kick-start our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”