Heathrow has called on the government to immediately remove testing for fully vaccinated passengers.

This comes as the airport revealed that at least 600,000 passengers cancelled travel plans from Heathrow in December due to Omicron and the uncertainty regarding government travel restrictions.

This was not the end of the year that the airport had hoped for, after welcoming only 19.4 million passengers in 2021 – less than a quarter of 2019 and lower than 2020 levels.

The airport also urged the government to adopt a “more predictable” plan for future variants of concern that involves restrictions only to passengers from high-risk destinations and allows for home quarantine rather than at a hotel.

It added that there is “significant doubt over the speed at which demand will recover”, with IATA forecasting that passenger numbers will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025 “provided that restrictions are removed at both ends of a route and that passengers have confidence that they will not return rapidly”.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“There are currently travel restrictions, such as testing, on all Heathrow routes – the aviation industry will only fully recover when these are all lifted and there is no risk that they will be reimposed at short notice, a situation which is likely to be years away.

“While this creates enormous uncertainty for the CAA in setting a new 5 year regulatory settlement, it means the regulator must focus on an outcome that improves service, incentivises growth and maintains affordable private financing.”

As it stands, pre-departure tests have been scrapped while Day 2 PCR tests have been replaced with lateral flows.