Heathrow’s surge in demand following removal of travel restrictions
London Heathrow Airport has experienced a surge in passenger demand, during March 2022, following the UK government’s removal of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Credit: London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Following a very weak January and February 2022, passenger numbers in March 2022 were the highest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the UK government’s removal of all travel restrictions, making the UK the first country in the world to do so. This demand is being driven by outbound leisure at weekends and during school holidays, as Brits make the most of the freedom to travel and cash in vouchers from trips cancelled during COVID-19. Inbound leisure and business travel remains weak due to high COVID-19 levels in the UK and the requirement to test before returning home.
The aviation sector has been rebuilding capacity ahead of a summer peak, so resources are stretched. London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is working closely with airlines and ground handlers to make sure this increase in demand can be met while keeping passengers safe. Half of global markets still require COVID-19 checks including testing, vaccination status and quarantine, which is causing particular congestion in check-in areas at peak times. Heathrow is advising passengers to check with their airline to confirm when they should get to the airport. Other airport processes are currently working to plan and Heathrow is working with Border Force to ensure sufficient levels of resource are in place to cope with the large number of passengers returning to the UK over the next couple of weeks.
As the summer peak is expected to be very busy, with peak days close to 2019 levels, Heathrow is increasing resources as fast as possible, with 12,000 new starters planned across the airport.
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The return of demand is very welcome, though it is unclear whether the current surge in outbound leisure demand is sustainable, or what impact the war in Ukraine, high fuel prices, low GDP growth and potential new variants of concern will have on medium term demand. We are reviewing our forecasts and will give a further update later in April 2022.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye commented: “It is fantastic to see the airport coming back to life after two years, and I want to thank all Team Heathrow colleagues for working together to serve our passengers. Everyone at Heathrow is doing everything we can to make sure passengers get on their way as smoothly and safely as possible.”