Heathrow passenger numbers down 38% on pre-pandemic levels

British Airways Airbus A380-841 as it takes off from Heathrow Airport
British Airways Airbus A380-841 as it takes off from Heathrow Airpor

Heathrow’s passenger numbers were down 38% last month compared with pre-pandemic levels, the airport has announced.

Just 2.6 million people travelled through the west London airport in September, compared with 6.8 million during the same month in 2019.

The decline was driven by North American traffic being only a quarter of 2019 levels.

The US has been closed to UK visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, although the restriction will be lifted in November for those who are fully vaccinated.

Heathrow said rival airports in the European Union “enjoyed stronger resurgence over summer”.

Plane flies close to Heathrow Airport in West London

reduction in cargo volumes in September compared with 2019 reflects how travel restrictions have been “damaging UK exports and supply chains” as well as passenger demand, according to the airport.

Meanwhile, Heathrow urged the Government to use the forthcoming Cop26 climate conference to announce policies to scale up the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the UK.

John Holland-Kaye, the airport’s chief executive, said: “We should aim for 2019 to have been the peak year for fossil fuel use in global aviation.

“The UK Government can show real leadership in decarbonising aviation at Cop26, by setting a progressively increasing mandate and a plan to use contracts for difference to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation fuel in the UK, which will protect the benefits of flying for future generations.”

SAF is produced with materials other than crude oil, and produces up to 80% less carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel.