Heathrow passenger numbers drop by three quarters due to coronavirus

11 January 2021, 10:15 | Updated: 11 January 2021, 10:34

Heathrow passenger numbers have dropper 72.2% year-on-year
Heathrow passenger numbers have dropper 72.7% year-on-year. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Heathrow Airport's passenger numbers fell by almost three quarters last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have revealed.

Just 22.1 million people travelled through the UK’s busiest airport in 2020, down 58.8 million on the previous 12 months - a fall of 72.7 per cent.

In December, passenger numbers fell by 82.9 per cent year-on-year to 1.1 million amid the emergence of a number of worrying new strains of Covid-19.

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Last week, the Government announced all travellers to England and Scotland from international destinations will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country.

Failure to comply will lead to an immediate £500 fine.

The move followed the decision to suspend all direct travel from South Africa due to a new variant there which is thought to be potentially even more virulent than the mutant strain which has led to a surge in cases in the UK.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "The past year has been incredibly challenging for aviation.

"While we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.

"The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival. We need a road map out of this lockdown, and a full waiver of business rates.

"This is an opportunity for the Government to show leadership in creating a common international standard for pre-departure testing that will allow travel and trade to restart safely so that we can start to deliver the Prime Minister's vision of a global Britain."

Meanwhile, prior to compulsory testing being introduced, passengers who travelled through Heathrow raised concerns over a lack of Covid safety at the airport.

As well as querying not having to provide a negative test result, they cited a lack of mask wearing at the airport and poorly maintained sanitiser stations as major worries.

One person said they “felt quite vulnerable” the moment they landed, while another said “the contrast... with every other international airport is dismal”. 

Freelance journalist Raphael Rashid, who is based in South Korea, told LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty: “I think I was experiencing coronavirus culture shock. It was a completely different thing to what I experienced in South Korea. So many people not wearing masks - indoors, outdoors - a general sense that people are not taking it seriously.  

“When I arrived in London Heathrow from the start there were no temperature checks at the airport. We didn’t have to submit a negative PCR test, there was no screening, no health assessment and there’s no one to check whether you have a passenger locator form or not.  

“Airport staff not wearing masks, or if they were they were wearing them under their noses or on their chins, which defies the reason for wearing a mask. No social distancing. I felt quite vulnerable the moment I landed in the UK.”