MIAMI – For the first time, Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) has overtaken London Heathrow (LHR) as Europe’s largest airport in passenger numbers. Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Frankfurt (FRA) are close behind. The results are for the nine months ending on September 30, 2020.

During that period, passenger numbers at LHR declined 68.9% year over year, falling to 19M passengers from 61M.

“Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said in a press release. “European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits. Let’s make Britain a winner again. Bringing in pre-departure COVID tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot airbridge to America will kick start our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”

All three continental rivals have implemented COVID-19 testing regimes. The UK Government has announced an intention to introduce testing for passengers from high risk countries by December 1.

Photo: London Heathrow Airport.

Finances Are Secure

Regardless of such results, LHR’s finances have remained robust. According to an LRH press release, the airport management acted quickly to reduce its monthly cash burn by over 30%. It cut at least £300m (US$390m) of operating costs and canceled or paused over £650m (US$856.34m) of capital projects.

Further savings are planned, but LHR is protecting employment, offering all frontline colleagues a job with market-rate salaries guaranteed at or above the London Living Wage.

Also, LHR says its cash reserves are sufficient for the next 12 months, even under an extreme scenario with no revenue. Cash is sufficient to last well into 2023 under the management’s current forecast. Moreover, Investor confidence remains strong with 94% of creditors agreeing a waiver on financial covenants until the end of 2021.

Finally, The London premier hub has maintained its Investment Grade credit rating status. According to Yahoo! Finance, LHR is owned by a consortium led by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial. It includes also sovereign wealth funds from China, Singapore, and Qatar as well as North American shareholders.

Featured image: London Heathrow Intl’ airport (LHR). Photo: London Heathrow