Heathrow expects passenger traffic to remain at just over half pre-pandemic levels next year.

The airport said that it “forecasts a slow start to 2022, finishing next year with around 45 million passengers”, compared to the record 80.9 million recorded in 2019 prior to the onset of Covid-19.

It said that the estimate aligns closely with forecasts by the CAA and IATA – the latter of which is predicting global passenger numbers in 2022 to be around 60 per cent of 2019 levels.

Heathrow added that it does not expect international travel to recover to 2019 levels “until at least all travel restrictions (including testing) are removed from all the markets that we serve, at both ends of the route, and there is no risk of new restrictions, such as quarantine, being imposed” – something the airport believes “is likely to be several years away”.

Last month the airport said that it did not expect traffic to fully recover until at least 2026.

Heathrow traffic won’t recover until 2026

The forecast comes as Heathrow warned that new government-imposed travel restrictions have further dampened passenger confidence, with demand down 60 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

The airport also said that there had been a “high level of cancellations by business travellers concerned about being trapped overseas because of pre-departure testing”.

The London hub welcomed just over three million passengers last month, with traffic figures currently standing at 16.3 million for the year to the end of November 2021.

Heathrow urged the government “to reduce restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so and to allow UK nationals from red list countries to isolate at home so that they can be reunited with loved ones for Christmas”.

Commenting on the news Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“By allowing Brits to isolate at home, Ministers can make sure they are reunited with their loved ones this Christmas.

“It would send a strong signal that restrictions on travel will be removed as soon as safely possible to give passengers the confidence to book for 2022, opening up thousands of new jobs for local people at Heathrow. Let’s reunite families for Christmas.”