Heathrow Airport predicts passenger numbers will be down 90% in April

Call for common international practices for healthcare screening in airports

Passengers  wearing masks passing through  Heathrow Airport in Britain

Passengers wearing masks passing through Heathrow Airport in Britain

 

Heathrow Airport, traditionally the busiest in Europe, forecasts that passenger numbers will plunge by more than 90 per cent in April, as coronavirus restrictions stop most people from travelling.

The remaining 10 per cent, or around 680,000 people, still using Heathrow this month will be either Britons returning home after being stuck abroad or foreign citizens repatriating, as well as medical experts travelling to help with the crisis.

Heathrow also said on Tuesday its passenger numbers were down 52 per cent in March compared with the same month last year, as the 6.5 million who went on holiday or travelled for work last March shrunk to 3.1 million this year.

The airport, which is owned by a group of investors including Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment , said it was now only using one of its two runways.

Heathrow has for more than a decade been trying to build a third runway because it was operating at full capacity before the crisis.

The airport said priority was now being given to cargo flights with medical supplies, although overall cargo volumes were down by a third last month because supplies mostly travel in the hold of passenger planes.

British Airways (part of IAG) and Virgin Atlantic have both partnered with the government to operate cargo-only flights this month, bringing medical supplies such as ventilators and personal protective equipment to the UK.

Passengers

Heathrow said it wanted to work with the government to develop a health screening process for passengers, and that common international practices needed to be developed.

“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,” said Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

Heathrow has agreed a 10 per cent pay cut with its 7,000 directly employed staff out of 76,500 people who work at the airport, and is reducing the number of terminals it has open to lower costs.

It recently paid shareholders £100 million (€114.5m) in dividends, a payout it said was agreed in February before the impact of the coronavirus crisis became clear. – Reuters