Heathrow International Airport (LHR) says it is facing “headwinds” in its road to recovery because Americans are concerned “over war in Europe and the likelihood of new ‘Variants of Concern'”.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unnerved countries across Europe and some travellers are reconsidering their travel plans. Airlines in the Persian Gulf have already reported suppressed booking figures for European flights.
In February, the West London airport saw 2.86 million passengers pass through its doors but that was still half of pre-pandemic levels and 15 per cent below Heathrow’s forecast for the month.
Over half a million passengers came from North America.
Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye blamed lingering uncertainty from the pandemic, along with the new threat from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an escalating war in Europe.
Despite the “huge uncertainty”, Heathrow still plans to reopen Terminal 4 before July. The terminal was shuttered at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and was only briefly reopened as a dedicated arrival facility for passengers who were sent into the UK government’s hotel quarantine system.
The terminal is traditionally the home of Skyteam alliance airlines including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, and Saudia. The terminal also traditionally hosts Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.
Heathrow does, however, expect demand to be further dampened by rising fuel costs which will inevitably be passed onto passengers.
Passengers also face the threat of an additional fare increase if Heathrow wins its battle for a five-year funding settlement. Airlines have strongly opposed Heathrow’s request to hike fees that carriers pay the airport but Heathrow says the increase is essential to pay for investment like an upgraded baggage handling system and new security scanners that will mean passengers no longer have to remove liquids from their bags.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.