Heathrow airport has revealed that the “long road to recovery” has begun, with the airport seeing its highest monthly passenger numbers since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

The UK’s largest airport saw over 1.5 million travellers last month, a 74 per cent increase in passengers compared with July 2020, owing to the easing of travel restrictions.

North American passenger numbers grew by almost 230 per cent year-on-year, with New York JFK reclaiming its spot as Heathrow’s most popular route.

British Airways recently outlined plans to ramp up its services between the US and London Heathrow following the decision by the UK government to remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from the EU and US.

The airport is set to further increase its transatlantic services later this month with the arrival of American carrier Jetblue. Heathrow urges the joint UK/US travel taskforce to reach a reciprocal agreement for fully vaccinated UK travellers, and also called for the reopening of “vital trading links” such as Canada and Singapore as soon as the data allows.

Nonetheless, passenger numbers are still down over 80 per cent on July 2019 due to the ongoing barriers to travel, with Heathrow citing testing costs as a prime factor.

Heathrow states that the cost of testing in the UK “remains prohibitive for many” and that it stands “as an outlier with Europe slashing their prices and in some cases, subsiding them”. It continues to call for VAT to be scrapped and for the use of cheaper lateral flow tests for low-risk destinations.

At the start of the week, the WTTC called on the UK government to bear the cost of PCR tests for fully vaccinated citizens, while IATA similarly urged governments to take action last month.

Heathrow Chief Operating Officer, Emma Gilthorpe, said:

“Finally, some blue skies are on the horizon, as travel and trade routes slowly reopen. The job though is far from complete. Government must now capitalise on the vaccine dividend and seize the opportunity to replace expensive PCR tests with more affordable lateral flow tests. This will ensure travel remains attainable for hardworking Brits, desperate for well-earned getaways and keen to reunite with loved ones before the summer travel window closes.”