Heathrow passenger numbers in May were nearly eight times higher than in the same month last year when restrictions on airline travel remained tight.
In its busiest month since March 2020, more than 5.3 million people came through Britain’s largest airport, compared to just 675,200 in May 2021, although traffic remained around a fifth lower than pre-pandemic volumes.
North America saw the biggest rise in people flying from Heathrow, climbing by 1,500 per cent to 1.4 million, while there was a 1.7 million increase in passengers journeying to the European Union.
Huge numbers: In its busiest month since March 2020, more than 5.3 million people came through Britain’s largest airport, compared to just 675,200 in May 2021
The British Airways hub observed substantial traffic over the Platinum Jubilee weekend and summer half-term periods, despite many holidaymakers facing long queues and flight cancellations.
These problems were caused by the considerable recovery in demand coinciding with widespread staff shortages across the aviation industry.
Heathrow claimed that ‘no more flights were cancelled at short notice than on any normal day,’ adding that 90 per cent of travellers were able to get through security in under 10 minutes.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘I’m immensely proud of the way my team has worked with airlines and other partners to ensure passengers got away during the Jubilee half-term.
‘We continue to make good progress with our plans to ramp up capacity and are working closely with airlines and Government to keep supply and demand in balance as we grow, so that passengers can travel through Heathrow this summer with confidence.’
Ahead of the summer peak season, Heathrow is set to reopen Terminal 4 tomorrow, having kept it shut to passengers since the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic more than two years ago.
High demand: The British Airways hub observed high traffic over the Platinum Jubilee and summer half-term periods, despite many travellers facing long queues and flight cancellations
Formerly the main operating terminal for British Airways, the site has traditionally hosted Middle Eastern airlines, including Qatar Airways, which will resume services there on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia Airlines and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
But there are fears that the worsening inflationary environment in the UK and around the world will stymie demand for foreign holidays and business travel, slowing the aviation sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s inflation rate is currently at 10 per cent, its highest level in four decades, as oil and gas prices have soared following the loosening of travel and lockdown restrictions and Russia’s recent full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The well-publicised delays and flight cancellations at airports across the UK could further disincentivise some Britons from taking their summer break in a different country and persuade them to choose a staycation holiday instead.
In a bleak analysis of Heathrow’s performance, Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, commented: ‘It is clear that travel demand remains subdued with business travel in particular unlikely to ever get back up to its pre-covid peak.
‘After an unprecedented period of difficulty for the whole sector, 2022 was meant to see a surge in pent-up demand and a sharp acceleration of international travel.
‘However, with the cost-of-living crisis, the new era of online business meetings, the war in Ukraine, and cost inflation, Heathrow is facing yet another difficult year that will delay its first post-pandemic period of profitability.’