Heathrow reclaims title of Europe's busiest hub airport

About 5.8 million passengers travelled through the London airport in September

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Heathrow has said it regained its status as Europe’s busiest hub airport during the summer.

About 5.8 million passengers travelled through the London airport in September, more than rivals in cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Madrid.

The figure was 15 per cent lower than the total for the same month in 2019, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Heathrow said it had gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list.

It blamed its fall in the rankings on the UK’s coronavirus travel restrictions.

Those curbs were lifted in March and Heathrow said it recorded more passengers than other European hub airport between July and September.

But the airport said the outlook for future demand “remains uncertain” because of “growing economic headwinds, a new wave of Covid and the escalating situation in Ukraine”.

“However, we expect peak days at Christmas to be very busy," it said.

The airport said last week that it was lifting a cap on passenger numbers put in place to limit disruption due to staff shortages, in a move that offered airlines the opportunity to meet market demand.

The cap will be lifted on October 29.

Decades of flight from at Heathrow - in pictures

The airport said the passenger cap helped to balance supply and demand, as numbers dipped in July when passengers began to exceed capacity, leading to long queues and lost baggage as the lack of staff took a toll.

The cap led to disagreement with airlines, including Emirates, over demands to reduce flights.

The number of people leaving Europe’s biggest airport has been capped at 100,000 a day since July.

The airport said today: "Resource levels across the airport, airlines and their ground handlers have been increasing and we have now removed the cap.

"We are working with our airline partners to develop a more targeted mechanism, which protects passenger service during peak periods."

Heathrow said its focus in the next 12 months was to get capacity, service levels and resilience back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Heathrow has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and we’ve delivered a great passenger experience to the vast majority of travellers," said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

"While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world-class service people should expect from the UK’s hub airport as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, foreign travel from the UK nearly doubled after coronavirus restrictions were lifted, according to new research.

Travel trade organisation Abta said a survey indicates that 38 per cent of people travelled abroad between March and August, compared with 21 per cent during the previous six months.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, speaking at the organisation’s annual convention in Marrakesh, Morocco, said: “The lifting of the UK’s travel rules this year unleashed a surge in overseas holidays.

“Given how much these restrictions had dampened demand, it’s quite remarkable to see foreign holiday taking already reaching 70 per cent of 2019 levels, which was in itself a bumper year for travel, in such a short space of time.

“We now face an uncertain year ahead given the cost-of-living challenges, but Abta’s research suggests that we should continue to see an increase in foreign holidays next year and, encouragingly, many of our members have also been reporting a high level of demand for bookings.”

Updated: October 11, 2022, 8:51 AM