Heathrow’s boss is “confident” there will be a summer holiday season despite comments from transport secretary Grant Shapps about not booking holidays and an 89% slump in the airport’s passenger numbers in January.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, called for prime minister Boris Johnson to include a “flight plan” for the safe reopening of UK borders as part of Johnson’s promised road map out of the pandemic crisis, which is due to be unveiled on 22 February.
Holland-Kaye, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, added: “Personally I’m confident that there will be a summer – that we can save our summer – because as we see the vaccine being rolled out in the UK and incident levels coming down, we will start to get our life back to something like normal domestically.
"Then people will say, ‘Why can’t I go on holiday abroad if it’s safe to go to those countries?’."
Heathrow saw passenger volumes drop to just 677,000 in January – down by nearly 89% compared with January 2020 – with cargo volumes also falling by 21%.
“We support the government in measures required to protect public health,” added Holland-Kaye. “But these additional requirements are essentially a border closure. That will inevitably delay the country’s recovery and hurt the UK’s supply chains.
“We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the prime minister’s road map on 22 February. We also need to preserve our vital aviation infrastructure to support economic recovery when it comes and make global Britain a reality.”
Heathrow also urged the government to provide “targeted support” to help aviation to survive the Covid crisis including business rates relief and a further extension to the furlough scheme.