Heathrow has revealed that it will not make a profit this year, with losses topping £4 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airport welcomed 9.7 million passengers in the first three months of the year, with revenue of £516 million. The months of January and February were weaker than expected due to Omicron-related travel restrictions, while demand picked up in March due to the UK’s removal of all travel restrictions.

Nonetheless, the airport said that “demand remains very volatile” and expects passenger numbers to “drop off significantly” after the summer months. “We are already seeing airlines cancelling services into the autumn and the realities of higher fuel costs, lower GDP growth, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic will drag on demand,” stated a press release.

The airport noted that many countries are still closed due to the pandemic, while nearly 80 per cent of destinations still have testing and vaccination requirements. Heathrow also voiced concern over the arrival of a new variant of concern, which may lead to the return of UK travel restrictions.

Heathrow is, however, expecting more passengers this year than previously estimated, with the demand driven by leisure travellers and those redeeming travel vouchers accrued during the pandemic. It has therefore updated its 2022 passenger forecast from 45.5 million to 52.8 million, representing a return to 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye commented:

“I want to thank colleagues who worked very hard to ensure the start of 2022 has gone to plan, and I want to reassure passengers that we’re redoubling our efforts to ensure this summer’s journeys go safely and smoothly. These past few weeks have only reinforced our view that passengers want easy, quick and reliable journeys every time they travel and we can continue to deliver that for less than a 2% increase in ticket prices.

“The CAA should be aiming to secure this win for passengers instead of pushing plans which will cut investment in service, increase queues and make delays a permanent feature post-COVID. We have a lot of work to do to reclaim Heathrow’s crown as Europe’s largest airport which will deliver more competition and choice for passengers and more growth for Britain, and we need the regulator to help us do it.”

The airport plans to reopen Terminal 4 by July and to recruit over 1,000 new security officers, while also helping airlines, ground handlers and retailers to fill over 12,000 vacancies across the airport. The airport has recently faced scrutiny over delays and cancellations, but stated that 95 per cent of passengers passed through security within five minutes during the Easter period, adding:

“A smooth arrival journey is more important than ever as many people begin travelling again for the first time, and we rely on Border Force having the right plans and resources in place for the summer peak.”