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Heathrow prepares for Christmas getaway

The Heathrow Observer

December 2022.

5.6m people travelled through Heathrow in November, down from 5.9m in October. Over 55 million people have travelled through Heathrow already this year, which is nearly 70% of 2019 levels.

The airport expects December will be busy and are looking forward to welcoming people heading off for their first Christmas with loved ones in three years. New York’s JFK is set to reclaim the crown of most popular route this Christmas.

The vast majority of travellers will be unaffected by Border Force strikes. The airport will be doing doing everything it can to protect a full flight schedule on strike days, so departing passengers should expect to travel as normal. Arriving passengers with UK, EU, US, Canadian and some other passports will be able to use e-gates as usual and their journeys should be largely unaffected on strike days.

Border Force has contingency measures to ensure other arriving passengers are cleared safely and as quickly as possible. Heathrow ise continuing to support them to strengthen these plans so that as few people are impacted as possible. If passengers who cannot use e-gates are concerned about travelling during the strikes, their airline may be able to offer them alternative travel dates.

This Christmas is a time for celebration after three years of COVID-19, so the airport will be bringing the fun back into festive travel. Customer service and Here to Help teams will be on-hand to give a friendly welcome and provide any extra assistance passengers may need. This year, they will also be handing out 10,000 gifts to departing passengers – ranging from treats to enjoy on the journey, through to lounge access and flight vouchers.

The airport will be busy, especially during the peak getaway, and will be working hard to get passengers on their way. Handy tips to help people to speed through Heathrow like a pro this Christmas, include:

  • Arrive no earlier than three hours before long-haul flights, and two hours for short-haul  

  • Be ready for security: no liquids, creams or gels over 100ml, seal any liquids in the bags provided and ensure large electricals go in a separate tray

  • Check eligibility for and use eGates for a quicker journey when arriving back into the UK

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “We are ready to welcome millions of passengers heading off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel. We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected.”

Earlier this month, Heathrow enlisted hundreds of ‘Little Here to Helpers’ to kick off the festive season for passengers by giving away 10,000 Christmas gifts.

The presents will be given out across all four terminals in the run up to new year in a bid spread Christmas cheer. All gifts will be from the airport’s shops, bars and restaurants and include free flights and lounge access, with other Christmas presents including Chanel perfumes, Pret breakfasts and designer makeup from World Duty Free.

This December will be the biggest Christmas getaway in three years. Over three million passengers are expected to travel through Heathrow in the last two weeks of the month for festive breaks at home and abroad – double that of the same period last year. Holidaymakers are split in what they look for in a winter trip, with the most popular destinations set to be chilly New York and sunny Dubai.

To further add to passengers’ Christmas spirit, Heathrow launched an advent calendar on its website and app, containing offers for those travelling through the airport until 25th December. Behind the windows lie discounts from Heathrow shops, bonus points from Heathrow Rewards, exclusive World Duty Free promotions and deals on festive-inspired food and beverage menus.

Tonia Fielding, Director of Services at Heathrow said:

“After three years of restricted travel, we are looking forward to welcoming millions of passengers who will be passing through Heathrow this December to go on festive breaks with family and friends. We have been working closely with all our partners across the airport to recruit more colleagues to provide a great airport experience. We want to ensure passengers can depart as they mean to go on and enjoy the holiday season from the moment they arrive at Heathrow. We hope our Little Here to Helpers will spread a bit of festive spirit this Christmas.”

Heathrow’s Little Here to Helpers are staffed from the airport’s Here to Help programme, which is now in its twelfth year and forms part of Heathrow’s efforts to ensure the very best airport experience for passengers. Over 750 Heathrow colleagues from non-operational and office-based roles took to the airport this summer to contribute 10,000 hours’ worth of additional customer support and help manage the pressures in the airport.

The Little Here To Helpers will be easily recognisable, donning purple Santa hats and located near one of the 25 Christmas trees spread across the terminals. Passengers just need to keep an eye out to kick start their festivities ahead of their flight.


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