UK airports experienced their worst summer since 1975 last year, as the onset of Covid-19 led to global lockdowns and travel restrictions.
The Airport Operators Association said Civil Aviation Authority data showed that just 14.2 million passengers passed through UK airports between July and September last year, compared to 14.1 million during the same period in 1975.
Across the whole of 2020 passenger numbers fell by just over 75 per cent, to levels last seen in 1985.
UK airports reported a total of 73.8 million passengers last year, less than a quarter of the 296.8 million recorded in 2019, and nearly two thirds of those that did travel did so in the first three months of the year before Covid-19 restrictions took hold.
Earlier this month British Airways owner IAG reported 2020 capacity levels at 33.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, falling to as low as just 5 per cent during the second quarter of last year.
And Heathrow airport recently reported its February traffic numbers showing just 500,000 passengers passing through the London hub, “capping 12 months with passenger numbers at their lowest since 1966”.
Commenting on the new figures, Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said:
“A year ago, the Chancellor stood up and noted some sectors faced ‘acute challenges’. He promised to work with the Transport Secretary on a ‘support package specifically for airlines and airports’. One year on, he has been proven right about the challenges but has failed to deliver sufficient support.
“The Chancellor’s failure to deliver on his promise has resulted in UK airports facing huge losses and trailing behind international competitors, who did receive significant support from their governments. For example, German airports received €820m of airport-specific support only last month.
“Yet despite dealing with the biggest crisis in their history, most airports remain operational to support vital public services, such as Royal Mail, air ambulances, Coastguard and the National Police Air Service, as well as other critical services such as freight, including PPE and vaccines.
“The Global Travel Taskforce offers us a glimmer of hope for a safe and successful summer. To ensure there are viable airports to support the economy and government agendas like global Britain and levelling-up , it must deliver on PM’s promise of risk-based restart of aviation from 17 May, through an affordable testing regime and with quarantine only as a measure of last resort.”