Heathrow boss tells LBC of 'devastating blow' caused by Covid

28 October 2020, 07:33 | Updated: 28 October 2020, 08:48

By Megan White

Heathrow Airport said its losses widened to £1.5 billion in the first nine months of the year as Paris Charles de Gaulle took its busiest airport crown for the first time ever.

Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84% compared with the same period in 2019.

Revenue fell by 72% to £239 million, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37 million.

Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt are "close behind", Heathrow warned.

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Coronavirus testing regimes have been implemented at all three "continental rivals", it added.

Heathrow's third-quarter revenue fell by 72% year on year to £239 million, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37 million.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that passengers are currently less than 20 per cent of what they were last year, and next year’s figures have also been downgraded.

In June, the airport had expected 29 million passengers this year, but are now expecting to only serve 23 million, and have slashed predictions for next year from 63 million to 37 million.

He told LBC: "We're reporting that our passenger numbers are currently less than 20 per cent of where they were last year, and we're downgrading our forecast for next year to be less than 50 per cent of what they were last year, so we are definitely in this for the long haul.

"We're well financed, so we'll be able to survive through this if we take the action we need to reduce our costs, but the impact of this is £1.5 billion in just the last nine months, and that really emphasises what a devastating blow Covid has been for the aviation sector."

Mr Holland-Kaye said aviation is "the lifeblood of the economy" and that the country needs a "healthy aviation sector," adding that if the UK doesn't do something about the aviation sector, we "risk falling behind."

Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched a taskforce to develop methods of reducing the 14-day self-isolation period for people arriving in the UK from non-exempt locations.

He said the Government is considering a "test and release regime" which would still involve a quarantine period of at least a week.

Heathrow insisted its finances "remain robust", with £4.5 billion of liquidity.

It said its cash reserves are "sufficient for the next 12 months even under an extreme scenario with no revenue".

Industry body ACI Europe warned on Tuesday that nearly 200 airports across the continent face insolvency in the coming months unless demand for air travel starts to recover by the end of the year.