How Have Major Airports Fared In The Recovery?

As countries emerge out of lockdown, more and more passengers will be looking to travel. That will put financial woes at ease for airports. However, the nature of the virus means that airports are not seeing as quick of a return to normalcy as otherwise hoped. How are the world’s major airports faring amidst the pandemic? Let’s take a look.

United LAX
How are airports faring in COVID-19 recovery? Photo: Getty Images

Are airports getting busier?

As borders reopen, airports will naturally get busier as more people fly again. However, the methodology for bounceback after a pandemic is an unpredictable business. While the world’s airports have been experiencing significantly more foot traffic, it’s a small portion of the growth they would have liked to have seen.

What’s the issue? Well, of course, the pandemic is still present, and different rules for different countries mean that not all recovery plans are aligned. Some regions have tighter restrictions for entry, and in some cases, passengers are actively discouraged from visiting certain countries.

How are our major airports faring, and what does the future hold?

Two girls in masks sit at airport
Are airports getting busy again? Photo: Getty Images

London Heathrow Airport

For London Heathrow Airport, recent travel figures have been looking up. In July, the airport recorded more than 860,000 travelers, which was an increase on the 350,000 that arrived in June. It has been helped by the opening of travel corridors granted by the UK government, which exempt travelers from 14 days of quarantine after returning from specific destinations.

As a result, the government’s safe travel list has seen a spike in European trips through Heathrow airport. 55.8% of Heathrow’s passenger traffic in July was headed for Europe. That amounted to around 482,000 people. It’s the region that has seen the most significant increase in passenger traffic, yet it’s still 82.1% lower than European traffic figures in July 2019.

travelers arrive at Heathrow
Europe has been the most popular destination from Heathrow Airport. Photo: Getty Images

For Heathrow as a whole, there have been 88% fewer passengers at its doors in July, and things look set to get worse. The airport has recently called out the UK government for its handling of the pandemic after two popular holiday destinations were removed from the safe travel list with just a few days’ notice. It has said that the government needs to seek longer-term solutions that would provide security for airports and airlines.

While it waits for a verdict on that, Heathrow is likely to experience quieter footfall for August until travel demand returns. Financially, the airport is in a stable position with enough liquidity to last it through June 2021. However, that’s not the position that it wants to be in.

The bottom line: Things were looking up, but Heathrow can’t guarantee that passenger traffic will continue to increase.

Pssengers crowding at check in for Heathrow
Changing travel corridors mean airports are suffering. Photo: Getty Images

Los Angeles International Aiport

For LA airports, things continue to look difficult. In Los Angeles International Airport, 59% fewer passengers went through the airport in the first half of the year than the same period in 2019. Overall, domestic travel was down 57.6% and international travel down by 62% in comparison to the first six months of 2019.

Recording its June figures, the airport had little more than one million passengers for the entirety of June. In comparison to June 2019, that figure represents an 87% drop. What’s more, only 129,000 passengers traveled internationally in June. This represents a 94.5% decline on 2019, but its still an improvement on figures from April.

For the US, the development of the coronavirus is hindering airport footfall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevents (CDC) has placed a level three warning across the majority of the world’s countries. It advises against all but essential travel outside the US to these destinations. The CDC also states that staying at home is the best way for US citizens to prevent transmission of the virus.

yellow taxi outside LAX
The CDC advises against non-essential travel with a Level 3 warning. Photo: Getty Images

While the pandemic continues to spread in the US, its airports like LAX will continue to struggle.

The bottom line: Footfall is steadily increasing, but traffic on international routes will remain low while the rate of infection in the US remains high.

Dubai International Airport

When it comes to innovative solutions in desperate times, Dubai is on the front foot. Earlier this week, it deployed sniffer dogs to trace COVID-19 at the airport. It’s a novel approach with a 91% accuracy rating and, with any hope, should aid the detection of the virus before it spreads through the community.

sniffer dog
DXB has employed sniffer dogs to search for COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

Despite its innovative breakthroughs, Dubai International Airport has also been suffering in the last six months due to the coronavirus. For the first quarter of the year, it recorded a 20% loss in traffic and has likely experienced much less as international travel slumped through the second quarter.

Interestingly, the UAE has recorded under 64,000 cases of coronavirus but just 359 deaths. Despite that, the country is still exempt from some other countries’ safe travel lists, including the UK. During this time, another important market has been closed. There have been no commercial flights between India and the UAE for the past five months.

These factors will have gravely hindered Dubai Airport. Speaking back in May, officials at the Dubai Airports Company, which manages airports in the city, said that it would be another 18 months before traffic returns. The success of returning demand is thought to be entirely dependent on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Emirates on tarmac at DXB
Travel agreements between India and the UAE could provide the boost that DXB needs. Photo: Getty Images

The bottom line: As vital routes to India reopen this month, traffic in Dubai International Airport will increase. However, the long-term future is uncertain.

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

For June 2020, Paris Charles De Gaulle experienced a 90.9% drop in passenger traffic alongside a 79.6% decrease in aircraft movements. For the first half of the year, it lost 61.3% of its traffic in comparison to January-June 2019, and its aircraft movements were down 53%.

According to a recent press release, Groupe ADP, which manages both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly, believes that demand will remain low for the rest of the year. It said traffic at both airports could drop between 55% and 65% in comparison to 2019 levels.

Delta counter at Paris CDG
With vital markets suffering low demand, CDG must optimize its cash burn to survive the slump. Photo: Getty Images

Its primary focus from now on is to reduce its expenditure throughout the remainder of the year and optimize its operation. Its strategy suggests that it does not see travel demand returning swiftly.

The bottom line: Demand at Paris airports will continue to be low, and Paris Charles De Gaulle must look at its spending to protect its future.

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