After seeing no increase in the number of people traveling and recovery not expected anytime soon, Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited (formerly BAA) has decided to keep London Heathrow Airports Terminal 4 closed until the end of 2021. The news issued in a press release on Friday also mentioned that Boris Johnsons’ government’s decision to bring about the end of tax-free shopping could be “the final nail in the coffin for struggling businesses.”
Due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions and a month-long lockdown in England, Heathrow Airport (LHR) saw its passenger numbers fall 88% year-on-year in November to 747,000. Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited is now calling on the government to provide sector-specific support to protect United Kingdom jobs while at the same time leading an economic recovery from the severe pain brought about by the global pandemic.
Tax-free shopping will end in January
Measures being mentioned are full business rates relief for all United Kingdom airports and the abandonment of UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to end tax-free shopping and the VAT refund scheme in January. The airport operators noted that decision to abolish tax-free shopping from January 1, 2021, would result in nearly 2,000 retail jobs losses in Heathrow alone.
If the plan goes ahead, it will make the United Kingdom the only country in Europe not to offer tax-free shopping for its international visitors.
In the press release seen by Simple Flying, Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye said:
“2021 should be the year of Britain’s economic recovery. But recent announcements, such as the tourist tax, could be the final nail in the coffin for struggling businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters that rely on inbound tourists, as well as for retailers. To make Global Britain a reality, the government should be helping the aviation sector to survive, to develop routes to our key trading partners, and attract businesses and tourists to come to Britain to spend their money.”
In November, several of the UK’s best-known luxury brands told the government that getting rid of tax-free shopping for international visitors could result in a billion pounds worth of lost investment.
Burberry, Chanel, Selfridges, and Bicester Village were among the retailers asking the government to rethink its decision to abolish tax-free shopping.
About Heathrow Terminal 4
Heathrow Terminal 4 was initially designed to cater to short-haul point-to-point traffic by facilitating passengers’ quick movement through the building. At the time, this was seen as a requirement for short-haul business flights between European capitals. Built at the cost of £200 million, the terminal was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 1 April 1986.
Terminal 4 became the main terminal for British Airways flights but was ill-suited to the airlines’ long-haul operations due to its size and distance from the other terminals. In 2009 British Airways moved all its operations to the new Terminal 5. Terminal 4 then became the Heathrow base for lines that belonged to the SkyTeam airline alliance.
What the future will look like
The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has not just had a devastating effect on airlines, but airports as well, as is evidenced in the closing of Terminal 4. With the number of people flying declining, airports have not only had to look at how they were handling the coronavirus with social distancing and hygiene, but what they may look like in the future. Technology will play a large part in future airport designs as biometric systems, and automated screening systems remove the need for human interaction with passengers. And it is not just inside the terminal where we will see changes with All Nippon Airways already testing autonomous vehicles and robots to load and unload luggage.
As for Terminal 4, the decision to keep it closed was easily decided by passenger numbers. While it is not a favorite with many Heathrow passengers, it might look a lot different when it finally reopens.
Have you traveled through Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport? If so, please tell us what you think about it in the comments.