LONDON – London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has confirmed to BBC Radio 4 today that it expects a two-year delay on its third runway.

This is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it is having on demand for air travel.

The interview on the radio station follows its financial results also released today.

Heathrow, T5, Hygiene Technician, 14th July 2020.

The Results

Passenger numbers were down 96% in the second quarter of this year, with revenues falling 85% to £119m.

For the year, passenger numbers are also down by 60% from 38.8 million in this period last year down to 15.4 million for the current period.

This means that the airport has reported an adjusted loss of £93 million.

Cargo volume has also decreased by 30%, of which such a hit is caused by the loss of passenger flights.

London Heathrow has turned around by protecting jobs and cutting costs by around £300m and pausing around £650m of capital projects.

Photo: Heathrow Airport

Government Confidence Wavering?

There appears to be some level of confidence for the airport, with cash reserves remaining sufficient until June next year.

The airport stated that the economic recovery of the United Kingdom in particular all depends on restarting aviation.

“[The] Government’s risk-based approach to allow quarantine-free flights from low and medium risk countries is very welcome, but only covers 30% of Heathrow’s markets.”

“Establishing an alternative to quarantine for COVID-free passengers from other countries should be a priority for the Government.”

“Pre-flight testing for passengers from high risk countries will allow long haul flying to resume, which is critical for the UK’s economic recovery. “

Photo: Heathrow Airport

Comments from London Heathrow CEO

Commenting on the news also was Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye who went into more detail on how the government can respond to this.

“Today’s results should serve as a clarion call for the Government – the UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast. Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette.”

“As many of our customers have experienced, it’s difficult to plan a holiday that way, let alone run a business.”

“Testing offers a way to safely open up travel and trade to some of the UK’s biggest markets which currently remain closed.”

“Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing, if the UK doesn’t act soon global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”   

Photo: Heathrow Airport

A Balancing Act

It remains clear that airports such as LHR are beginning to turn on the government’s approach to quarantining during this pandemic.

Especially with the revelations seen in Spain, it may produce the view that the government is being too harsh, too quickly.

Only time will tell how the government will respond to this, and whether it will make any further relaxations to help save the aviation industry further.

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5C (satellite 2) viewed from airfield, May 2011. David Dyson