Heathrow airport capped a disastrous year for aviation with a £2bn loss and a call for more government support to help it through the first part of 2021.
With the pandemic pushing passenger numbers down to levels not seen since the 1970s, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, requested next week’s UK Budget extend furlough for workers and provide full relief from business rates.
But the head of the UK’s busiest airport said the prospects for travel were beginning to brighten after prime minister Boris Johnson this week said non-essential international travel might be able to resume from May 17, subject to a review. Several travel companies have reported a rise in bookings since his statement.
“We can be hopeful for 2021, with Britain on the cusp of becoming the first country in the world to safely resume international travel and trade at scale,” said Holland-Kaye.
The company lost £2bn last year, down from a profit of £546m the year before.
Revenues fell 62 per cent to £1.2bn as the number of passengers using the airport collapsed from 80.9m to 22.1m, the lowest number since the 1970s.
More than half of them travelled in January and February last year, before the pandemic grounded many of the world’s aircraft.
Net debt rose nearly 6 per cent to £13.1bn, although Heathrow said it ended the year with £3.9bn of liquidity, enough to last until 2023.