Heathrow airport has warned of an ‘uncertain’ demand outlook amid “growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid and the escalating situation in Ukraine”.

While the airport says it had the busiest summer out of any European hub airport, its passenger numbers in September (5.8 million) were 15 per cent below pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Peak days over the Christmas holiday period are expected to be “very busy” and the airport is working with airline partners to “develop a more targeted mechanism, which protects passenger service during peak periods”.

Heathrow commented on the airport disruption experienced in the summer, which saw a raft of cancellations, delays and baggage delivery problems, but said that the passenger experience had significantly improved following the introduction of a demand cap in July.

The cap will be removed at the end of October, owing to an increase in resource levels across the airport, airlines and their ground handlers.

Heathrow extends cap on passenger numbers until October 29


The airport added that it is focusing on returning “capacity, service levels and resilience” to pre-pandemic levels over the next 12 months, but said that this relies on “a regulatory settlement that provides enough cash flow to invest in our operations and capital projects, and to maintain an investment grade credit rating”.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“Heathrow has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and we’ve delivered a great passenger experience to the vast majority of travellers. I’m proud of the way our team has worked with airlines and their ground handlers to get 18 million passengers successfully away this summer.

“While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world class service people should expect from the UK’s hub airport as soon as possible.”