For anyone who understands the aviation industry, the traffic figures published today by Heathrow Airport are rather worrying. On an article titled Restart Aviation for Global Britain, the company listed generic traffic figures for 2020 as well as a description of all traffic specifically for the month of last December. Last year’s traffic figures show the damaging effects that lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions had on the UK’s major hub airport and on the aviation sector in general.
A loss of 58.8 million passenger is significant for any operator and the impact can be devastating in different ways. Similarly, cargo volumes through Heathrow airport fell by 28.2%, a number that can be a major trade loss for any type of business or commercial activity.
The Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye described last year as “incredibly challenging for aviation” and considers the current air travel arrangements are not sustainable while the aviation industry is fighting for survival.
We do not have to examine traffic statistics from other locations to establish how other airports performed in the same period. I can confidently say that Heathrow’s condition is a reflection of the position every other airport is in at this moment. Besides, it shows how badly the pandemic affected every segment of the aviation industry over the past year.
After reading carefully Heathrow Airport’s report, I agree that the UK Government must show leadership and identify solutions to help British international airports to start ticking very soon. I will not pretend here that I know how we can accomplish this quickly. Having said that, I would suggest that authorities could support airports in two ways:
- Introduction of airport revenue protection schemes
- Offer relief from airport taxes
However, from my perspective as an industry observer, I feel that both the UK’s national and regional governments have remained inactive and idle about helping airport operators to recover from this situation.