London Heathrow Airport has seen the highest number of passengers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but infection rates in the UK with Covid-19 have kept business and inbound travelers away.
Demand surged last month after the UK government lifted travel restrictions, marking a significant improvement from a “very weak” start to the year, Heathrow said in an update on Monday.
“After very weak January and February, passenger numbers in March were the highest since the start of the pandemic,” Heathrow said.
Demand was driven by “weekend leisure” and school holiday travel as Britons took advantage of their newfound freedom and many vouchers used trips canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Inbound leisure and business travel remains weak due to high levels of Covid-19 in the UK and the requirement to test before returning home,” the statement said.
Airport resources have been “stretched”, the statement said, as airlines had to rebuild capacity to prepare for the summer season. Heathrow is expecting a busy summer with passenger numbers close to 2019 levels, prompting the airport to ramp up resources “as quickly as possible”. The airport plans to add 12,000 new arrivals.
“It’s fantastic to see the airport coming back to life after two years,” said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
Heathrow, however, warned that the risks remain high as it was “unclear if the rise in demand is sustainable”.
He warned that high fuel prices, potential new variants of Covid-19 and war in Ukraine were potential medium-term threats.