Heathrow Heads Towards A Year of Renewal
The Heathrow Observer
Heathrow grew more than any other airport in the world last year – Passenger numbers in 2022 trebled to 62 million, as borders reopened in March after two years of closures which were tougher in the UK than in other major markets. This increase alone was equivalent to fitting virtually all of Frankfurt’s 2022 passengers into Heathrow.
The rapid growth was challenging operationally for all companies on the airport, but the airport was successful in getting as many people on their way as possible by keeping supply and demand in balance. Feedback from the vast majority of passengers was that they received great service, and Heathrow was pleased to be named “best airport in Europe”, an accolade that brings great credit to the teamwork and commitment of people across Team Heathrow.
Service is getting back to pre-pandemic levels
The border closures and loss of skills deeply scarred the global aviation sector and it will take some time to fully recover. Over 25,000 people have started work at Heathrow in the last 18 months and resource levels are now close to pre-pandemic levels. The focus is now on improving skills, experience and building resilience. The airport is seeing the benefits in a successful Christmas and half-term getaway. In 2019, passengers ranked Heathrow as one of the top 10 in the world and the airport is determined to get back there.
Heathrow continued to be loss making throughout 2022 – Annual losses have reduced from (£1,270) million to (£684) million, but inflation, lower passenger numbers and insufficient regulated charges impacted underlying profitability. No dividends were paid in 2022 and none are planned for 2023. Financing remains conservative, with strong liquidity and gearing falling below pre-pandemic levels. The final decision on the H7 settlement from the CAA, which will determine investment levels in passenger service over coming years, is expected in March.
Good progress made on decarbonising global aviation – The airport worked hard to secure the global agreement of net zero aviation by 2050 at ICAO. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will play a critical role in decarbonising the sector and Heathrow has created a £38 million incentive scheme to encourage airlines to switch out kerosene for SAF - making the airport one of world’s largest users of SAF. This year the London hub has tripled their SAF target, and this has been oversubscribed.
Later this year Virgin Atlantic will operate the first 100% SAF-powered transatlantic flight from Heathrow to New York, which will demonstrate that the faster SAF production is scaled up the faster aviation can be decarbonised.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:“2022 may have been a year of recovery, but 2023 is shaping up to be a year of renewal for Heathrow. Our teams have already delivered a successful Christmas and half-term getaway, and with a great investment plan in place, we are determined to once again rank in the top 10 airports for service.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how far Team Heathrow has come in my nine years as CEO – from transforming customer service, to securing Parliamentary approval for expansion to surviving two years of border closures and rebuilding the business. My successor will take on a fantastic team who are making Heathrow a world leading hub that Britain can be proud of.”
Images - Heathrow Airport Ltd