Heathrow warns economy, Ukraine, COVID headwinds could hit winter demand

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The UK’s biggest airport, London Heathrow, cautioned over travel demand this winter, saying that a tough economic backdrop, a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases and the escalating war in Ukraine are all causing headwinds.  

The subdued outlook came in a statement on September passenger numbers. The airport operator said almost 5.8 million passengers traveled through London’s biggest airport in September, representing 15% below pre-pandemic levels.  

Like other major hubs in Europe, Heathrow struggled with the sudden bounce-back in demand this summer and had to introduce limits on passenger numbers. The airport has now taken the decision to remove the cap after recruiting more staff.  

The rising cost of living and the energy crisis, sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is putting pressure on consumers.  

“Demand outlook remains uncertain, with growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid and the escalating situation in Ukraine,” the airport said in its statement on October 11, 2022. “However we expect peak days at Christmas to be very busy.” 

Heathrow, which said it had recorded the busiest summer of any European hub airport, said it was working with airlines on how to handle the increase in passenger numbers during peak periods.   

“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,” chief executive John Holland-Kaye commented.  

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