Heathrow’s cumulative losses from Covid-19 have grown to £2.9 billion as travel restrictions continue to impact passenger levels.
The London hub reported a pre-tax loss of £868 million in the six months to June 30 as year-on-year passenger levels slumped by 75% to 3.9 million – a level that would have taken just 18 days to reach in 2019.
Expensive Covid testing requirements and travel restrictions are holding back the UK’s economic recovery and could see Heathrow handle fewer passengers in 2021 than in 2020 despite “encouraging” recent changes to the government’s traffic light system.
Heathrow argues that the UK is losing out on tourism income and trade with key economic partners like the EU and US because ministers continue to restrict travel for passengers fully vaccinated outside the UK.
Trade routes between the EU and the US have recovered to nearly 50% of pre-pandemic levels while the UK remains 92% down, it estimates.
Heathrow added: “Travel is now the only sector still facing restrictions, and for as long as it does, ministers should provide financial support including an extension to the furlough scheme and business rates relief.
“Heathrow pays nearly £120 million a year in rates, in spite of being loss making; the government is changing policy to prevent us from reclaiming overpayments and we are challenging this in the High Court.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “The UK is emerging from the worst effects of the health pandemic, but is falling behind its EU rivals in international trade by being slow to remove restrictions.
“Replacing PCR tests with lateral flow tests and opening up to EU and US vaccinated travellers at the end of July will start to get Britain’s economic recovery off the ground.”