Heathrow was the busiest European air travel hub over summer, the airport operator said on Tuesday, although it warned that the outlook for demand remained uncertain.
The airport said close to 5.8 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in September, 15% below the pre-pandemic 2019 levels, although it was the busiest out of any European hub airport.
Passenger service levels, which were higher than other European hubs between January and June, dipped at the beginning of July as passenger demand started to exceed overall capacity of the aviation ecosystem, but improved “significantly” after it introduced a departing passenger cap.
As a result, Heathrow claimed the “vast majority of passengers” had a “very good” experience.
Demand outlook remained uncertain, however, with growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid-19 and the escalating situation in Ukraine.
However, Heathrow said it expected peak days at Christmas to be “very busy”.
Resource levels across the airport, airlines and ground handlers had been increasing, with the cap set to be lifted at the end of October.
Heathrow said it was working with its airline partners to develop a “more targeted” mechanism, protecting passenger service during peak periods.
The operator said its focus over the next year would be to get capacity, service levels and resilience back to full pre-Covid levels.
It said that would rely on having a regulatory settlement providing enough cash flow to invest in its operations and capital projects, and to maintain an investment-grade credit rating.
“Heathrow has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and we’ve delivered a great passenger experience to the vast majority of travellers,” said chief executive officer John Holland-Kaye.
“I’m proud of the way our team has worked with airlines and their ground handlers to get 18 million passengers successfully away this summer.
“While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world class service people should expect from the UK’s hub airport as soon as possible.”
Reporting by Josh White at Sharecast.com.