Heathrow airport has shut one of its runways and consolidated its operations across just two of its five terminals after March passenger numbers fell 52% to a little over three million.
The airport said many of these passenger journeys were repatriations following the Foreign Office’s decision to advise against all non-essential travel worldwide for the foreseeable future.
Britain’s busiest airport is now bracing for passenger numbers to plummet further to just 10% of its typical April traffic over the coming weeks, and has warned of "lasting and significant industry-wide effects" arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
Heathrow scaled back its operations to a single runway on 6 April, and will over the coming weeks channel all arrivals through two terminals - Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 – in an effort to "protect long-term jobs" by reducing operating costs and ensuring the airport remains "financially resilient".
The airport said it was ready to work with government and industry on new "rapid health screening" measures for passengers, prior to travel, to help develop "international consensus" on common practices and boost confidence in flying and airport operations.
It is also working with Public Health England to provide more hand sanitiser dispensers, implement new cleaning and sanitation procedures, and increase signage and floor stickering to encourage social distancing.
Meanwhile, Heathrow is now prioritising cargo arrivals to expedite import of vital medical supplies into the country, such as ventilators, medicines and Covid-19 testing kits. It handled 38 dedicated cargo-only movements in a single day on 31 March, just shy of three-quarters the number (47) it typically handles a week.
Heathrow has donated 6,000 face masks to NHS staff working at Thames Valley Air Ambulance and nearby Hillingdon Hospital. The airport has also provided educational resources to local schools and has redeployed its Heathrow community rangers to assist with delivering donations to local food banks.
Glasgow’s Loganair, meanwhile, has launched operations at Heathrow for the first time in its 58-year history on an interim basis following the closure of London City Airport to maintain a direct link between the capital and the Isle of Man. Heathrow is also hosting the only remaining UK air link to Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast.
“Heathrow continues to serve the nation by keeping vital supply lines open, and helping people get home," said chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
"Now is the time to agree a common international standard for healthcare screening in airports so that when this crisis recedes, people can travel with confidence and we can get the British economy moving again.”