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London’s Heathrow Reclaims Crown as Busiest Airport in Europe Despite Passenger Capacity Cuts

London’s Heathrow Reclaims Crown as Busiest Airport in Europe Despite Passenger Capacity Cuts

a man and woman with luggage in an airport

London’s Heathrow Airport has reclaimed the crown as Europe’s busiest airport based on the number of passengers it handled over the peak summer period from July to September, the airport’s chief executive John Holland Kaye boasted on Tuesday.

In September, the airport handled 5.8 million passengers, slightly down on the 6.04 million and 6.31 million passengers Heathrow handled in August and July respectively, and totalling more than 18 million passengers over the three-month period.

a group of people walking with luggage

Heathrow plummeted down the rankings during the pandemic as severe travel restrictions imposed by the Boris Johnson government and elsewhere caused passenger demand to dry up.

In 2021, the West London airport was ranked as the 7th busiest airport in the world for international passengers after dropping from 2nd place in 2019 when passenger numbers sunk by as much as 76 per cent according to data provided by Airports Council International.

Passenger numbers surged back this year, but chronic staff shortages forced Heathrow to impose a cap on the number of customers that airlines were allowed to sell tickets to as the aviation industry rushed to hire back key personnel to keep the airport moving.

Despite clinching back the title of the busiest airport in Europe, passenger numbers were still down 15 per cent on pre-pandemic levels and Holland Kaye warned on Tuesday that the demand outlook remained “uncertain”.

The airport raised worries about the “growing economic headwinds”, as well as a resurgent COVID-19 virus over the winter months and the war in Ukraine.

At the end of October, Heathrow will lift its passenger cap, while its closest competitor, Amsterdam Schiphol will keep passenger numbers artificially low for several more months as it struggles to hire enough security staff.

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