Heathrow loses top spot as Europe’s busiest airport

(Photo: Heathrow Airport)

Paris Charles de Gaulle has overtaken Heathrow as the delay in testing takes its toll on the UK hub

Heathrow has lost its place as the largest airport in Europe, as Paris Charles de Gaulle takes the top spot for the first time.

Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt are close behind as all three have implemented new COVID-19 testing regimes, which Heathrow says is the reason for its fall in the rankings.

Revised predictions for the total number of travellers using the airport this year now stand at 22.6m and 37.1m for 2021, compared to its June forecast of 29.2m in 2020 and 62.8m in 2021, and 2019 actuals of 81m.

The airport says the latest figures are a result of the pandemic’s second wave and slow progress regarding the UK testing to allow the re-opening of borders.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, said: “Paris has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for the first time ever, and Frankfurt and Amsterdam are quickly gaining ground. Let’s make Britain a winner again. Bringing in pre-departure COVID tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot airbridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”

Due to the decrease in travellers using the London hub, Heathrow has faced a financial loss throughout 2020. Throughout the first nine months of the pandemic, the airport lost a total of £1.5bn as passenger numbers remained down over 84%.

In the face of this, costs were cut to ensure job safety and to help reduce the monthly spending. According to the operator, around £300m of operating costs were saved, as well as the cancellation of over £650m of capital projects.

Despite the panic, Heathrow’s bosses say finances remain robust with a further boost in liquidity in October to £4.5bn, with cash reserves remaining substantial for the next twelve months.

Investor confidence also remains high, with 94% of creditors agreeing to a waiver on financial covenants.