The operator of London Heathrow Airport (LHR), Britain’s biggest hub, does not expect traffic to fully recover until at least 2026.
The comments on October 26, 2021 came as the airport reported financial results for the nine months to September 30, 2021.
The group said easing travel and testing restrictions meant it experienced its first full quarter of passenger growth in the third quarter of the year, the first time since 2019.
However, passenger numbers in the quarter were still only 28% of pre-pandemic levels, Heathrow Airport said.
The airport also noted that it remains behind European rivals. Over the first nine months of the year, passenger numbers at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Frankfurt (FRA) were around 72% down on pre-pandemic levels, while LHR was 83% down.
Over the first nine months of 2021, Heathrow’s revenue dropped 27% to £695 million ($957 million), and its post-tax loss reached £1.3 billion ($1.8 billion), roughly on a similar level as in 2020.
“Heathrow has lost £3.4bn cumulatively since the start of the pandemic and remains loss making today,” it noted in the earnings release.
Heathrow is currently in consultation over how much it can charge airlines per passenger over the next five-year charge period.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority published proposals on October 19, 2021 and Heathrow said it would respond by the end of the year. It said on October 26 that the proposals did not go far enough to ensure investors receive “a fair return”.