Heathrow airport says its traffic is not expected to fully recover until at least 2026. The airport revealed the news in its results for the nine months to September 30.

Nonetheless, the airport did experience its first full quarter of passenger growth since 2019, owing to the easing of travel restrictions and simplified testing requirements. Passenger numbers in the third quarter of the year recovered to 28 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Heathrow also revealed a loss of £3.4 billion since the start of the pandemic but states that it has £4.1 billion of cash “to be able to come through until the market recovers”. Passenger numbers for the first nine months reached 10.2 million, which is down by 46 per cent on the 19 million during the same period in 2020.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“We are on the cusp of a recovery which will unleash pent-up demand, create new quality jobs and see Britain’s trade roar back to life – but it risks a hard landing unless secured for the long-haul. To do that, we need continued focus on the global vaccination programme so that borders can reopen without testing; we need a fair financial settlement from the CAA to sustain service and resilience after 15 years of negative real returns for investors; and we need a progressively increasing global mandate for Sustainable Aviation Fuels so that we can protect the benefits of aviation in a world without carbon.”

As previously reported, the airport is urging the UK government to accelerate decarbonisation through the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). It is calling on the government to set higher mandate levels for 2050 and to provide a “price stability mechanism to scale up supply” as quickly as possible.

As it stands, the UK government is aiming to implement a mandate of at least 10 per cent SAF use by 2030 and is committing £300 million funding for production in the UK.

Passengers can purchase SAF for their flights through airlines such as British Airways or independent platforms like ‘Chooose’, which has partnered with the airport.

Finally, the airport argued that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s H7 initial proposals “do not go far enough to ensure financeability” . Last week, the CAA denied the airport’s request to increase the cap on its charges per passenger to between £32 and £43, instead offering a potential range from £24.50 to £34.40.