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Virus Impacts on Passenger Figures but Public say Trading Infrastructure must grow

Passenger numbers have fallen to 5.4 million, down -4.8% on last year after adjusting for the extra leap day, due to lower demand on Asian and European routes. Demand has continued to weaken going into March and Heathrow expects a further year-on-year decrease in coming weeks.

Image - Heathrow Airport

Regular deep cleaning has been introduced across all terminals as well as increased availability and provision of hand sanitisers. Dedicated Public Health England (PHE) team remains in place at the airport, implementing clinically-informed, evidence-driven processes to support passengers showing symptoms of the virus. Current processes include an early warning system allowing airline crew to report any illness on board flights ahead of landing.

In February, the airport saw over 115,800 metric tonnes of cargo pass through its doors, down 9.5%, as the effect of coronavirus was felt on global trade.

The UK aviation industry committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with UK Government targets. Heathrow became one of the world’s first major aviation hubs to become carbon neutral for its infrastructure, and published its own pathway to help the industry achieve the net zero 2050 goal as soon as possible.

The Court of Appeal found the Airport National Policy Statement (NPS) process followed by Government failed to take into account the Paris Agreement, and the NPS has been suspended pending either a successful appeal to the Supreme Court or the government addressing the procedural issue with the NPS. Heathrow expansion remains the only option to deliver the government’s vision of a Global Britain and is widely supported locally and nationally.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, said:

“The threat of Coronavirus is an increasing challenge for the UK and we are working day and night to ensure Britain’s front door is open and safe for our people and passengers. We will continue to work with the Government to limit the impacts this will have on UK plc.”

Above - Heathrow is the UK's biggest port and moves more cargo in a week than the next largest UK airport does in a year (Raimond Spekking)

Despite passenger numbers falling across the airline industry and with all airlines cutting capacity and grounding aircraft due to the onset of COVID-19, new polling has revealed that a majority of those in Britain think that the Government is not doing enough to invest in the UK’s trading infrastructure.

The poll, published by YouGov, highlights that over half the public (57%) think the Government should be doing more to invest in national infrastructure to help the UK trade globally, while only 13% think the Government is currently doing enough. A majority also agreed that the Government needs to do more to connect UK communities to global trade opportunities, while only 15% think the Government is doing a sufficient amount.

The findings come as negotiations between the UK and the EU over its future trading relationships have been postponed due to the spread of the virus. Indications regarding trade with the USA are favourable and the US government's decision to suspend flights between the US and EU Schengen Agreement countries does not include the UK - and central to the country’s ability to trade is the UK’s largest port by value; Heathrow.

A recent report from CEBR has found that over 40% of the UK’s exports to non-EU markets by value now pass through Heathrow – more than Southampton, Felixstowe and Portsmouth combined. The airport moves more in a week than the next largest UK cargo airport does in a year. Expansion at Heathrow would provide up to a further 40 new long haul routes to new markets, as well as doubling cargo capacity.

The poll, published a week after the Court of Appeal dismissed all but one claim in a judicial review against the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement, also found that nearly one in two (46%) believe the Government should work with Heathrow on plans which are already well progressed, rather than begin another process to choose another airport to expand. 46% also believe expanding Heathrow within stringent environmental tests is the best option. Just last month, the UK aviation industry produced a detailed plan setting out the path to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with Heathrow publishing its own pathway to net zero in February.

Heathrow have been clear that the ruling against the Government is eminently fixable, given that the airport’s expansion plans can be delivered in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The Court clearly stated that the ruling does not mean the project is incompatible with the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

A Heathrow spokesperson said:

“Campaign slogans are important for a general election, but now the country needs decisive action. The Government can either keep waiting on the side lines and watch France overtake Britain with the biggest airport in Europe within the next two years, or together we can take back control of our future trading destiny and build the global Britain infrastructure our country needs. Heathrow expansion will meet strict environmental targets and it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny. Britons understand that Heathrow expansion is exactly the type of project our country needs now more than ever – the Government should heed their advice and help us move it forward at speed.”

Below - the UK remains the Republic of Ireland's biggest trading partner, with the route to Dublin the third busiest route at Heathrow (Kevan James)

Read the in-depth history of Heathrow in Kevan James' book 'Heathrow Airport 70 Years and Counting'.

Details and reviews on the home page.

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