Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go

Heathrow had just 675,000 round-trip passengers in May, the UK’s CAA shows. That was just 10% of what the airport – normally Europe’s busiest – had in May 2019, with a shortfall of over 6.1 million passengers. Even Palma had more passengers than Heathrow, according to The Anker Report. When all the data is in, it is expected that Heathrow will be Europe’s 17th-busiest airport – or lower – in May.

Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go
The USA has been badly hit from Heathrow. Just 80,000 were passengers were transported in May, down from 1.5 million in the same month in 2019. And no travel corridor is in sight. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A long road ahead

Of course, Heathrow’s passenger volume has improved since May 2020; it’d be hard not to. But little ground has been made up in a year. This shows how much catching up there still is to do and how much everyone across the industry is suffering.

A key to recovery will be the requirements surrounding the ‘traffic light’ system of countries and the testing and quarantine situation. It is hoped, but not yet confirmed, that fully vaccinated Britons returning from green and amber countries will not need to quarantine. This could still be undermined by the requirements of the country from which they came, with the need for a simplified, standardized system essential for everyone’s benefit.

Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go
Heathrow’s May 2021 passenger numbers were down by 90% over 2019. Source of data: the UK’s CAA.

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Lagos was the #1 international destination

In May, Heathrow’s number-one international destination was Lagos, Nigeria, as indicated below. The 3,101-mile market saw 21,542 non-stop passengers (down from 34,391), with  additional passengers obviously flying via hubs in Europe and the Middle East. Heathrow-Lagos had two daily departures: once each with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Note that the data given by the UK’s CAA relates to all passengers flying to/from an airport. It doesn’t distinguish how many are point-to-point or how many continued beyond the airport or flew over Heathrow.

  1. Lagos: 21,542 round-trip passengers
  2. Istanbul: 18,712
  3. Amsterdam: 18,599
  4. Lisbon: 17,896
  5. Madrid: 17,864
  6. Dublin: 17,570
  7. New York JFK: 17,344
  8. Paris CDG: 15,837
  9. Frankfurt: 15,124
  10. Athens: 14,311
  11. Cairo: 13,347
  12. Faro: 13,102
  13. Tel Aviv: 12,188
  14. Rome Fiumicino: 11,639
  15. Accra: 10,871
  16. Hong Kong: 10,862
  17. Delhi: 10,801
  18. Singapore: 10,240
  19. Zurich: 9,306
  20. Bucharest: 9,213
Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go
Heathrow’s 20 largest markets collectively had about the same as the number-one market did in May 2019. Image: OAG Mapper.

Heathrow’s 20 largest markets

The importance of Portugal being on the green list (for a short time, anyway) is clear to see, particularly regarding Faro. The Algarve airport was Heathrow’s 12th-busiest with 13,102 passengers (up from 8,657), with 55 departures in May.

Israel is on the UK’s green list and Tel Aviv shows this. It jumped 24 places to the 13th spot, obviously helped by big cuts elsewhere. There were 69 non-stop departures across BA, El Al, and Virgin Atlantic. Come August, Heathrow-Tel Aviv is set to have 183 departures across four carriers, including a double-daily by Virgin and a low-frequency offering by Arkia.

But consider this. In May, the top-20 markets had 286,386 passengers. In vivid contrast, Heathrow’s number-one destination in May 2019 (New York JFK) had almost the same number.

Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go
Lagos was Heathrow’s largest international market. Virgin serves it with the A330-300. Photo: Getty Images.

Heathrow has welcomed four routes in June

In the current month (June), four routes have launched from Heathrow. After an absence of nearly eight years, American Airlines began Boston on a seven-weekly basis using the B777-200ER. It was followed soon after by a twice-weekly Aegean Airlines service to Thessaloniki.

Heathrow Recovery: Still A Long Way To Go
Jazeera Airways launched Kuwait to Heathrow on June 18th. Photo: Jazeera Airways.

Jazeera Airways inaugurated Kuwait-Heathrow on June 18th using an A320neo. With a flight time to the UK of almost six hours, it is currently offering a once-weekly service. The carrier began Kuwait-Gatwick in October 2019, but it is not yet sure which London airport will be served beyond the immediate term.

Also on June 18th, Widerøe began Bergen using the Embraer 190 E2. We recently explored the world’s longest E190/E195 routes. Widerøe’s entrance means that Heathrow is once again connected with the Norwegian city after a period of almost four years.

Are you planning to fly from Heathrow this year? Let us know in the comments.