Heathrow passenger numbers forecast at 81.4 million for 2024

West London airport expects 3% year-on-year increase in number of people passing through

The departures hall at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London. The airport predicts a record year for passenger numbers in 2024. Bloomberg
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Heathrow is predicting an increase in passenger numbers next year, as demand for air travel continues to climb, according to a report from the London airport.

Bosses at Europe's busiest airport on Friday said they expected 81.4 million passengers to pass through in 2024, compared with a predicted 79.1 million passengers for the entirety of 2023.

"This is based on the strong recovery seen this summer continuing, alongside the flight schedule and slot utilisation stabilising, although we remain cautious in the face of a higher cost of living, the global economy remaining relatively subdued and the potential fallout from geopolitical events," the report said.

"We expect sustained growth in passenger numbers from the Asia-Pacific region now that borders have fully reopened."

Levelling off

The growth in passenger numbers is now seen as levelling off, following a period of soaring figures as the world emerged from the Covid pandemic.

While airports and airlines benefitted from a post-pandemic boom driven by people's desire to travel and fuelled by savings accumulated during lockdowns, demand is now levelling off.

For example, from December 2022 to November this year 78.3 million passengers came through Heathrow, a 30 per cent improvement on the same period a year before.

If Heathrow's prediction of 81.4 million passengers in 2024 proves correct, it would mark only a 3 per cent year-on-year increase. Nonetheless, that would be a record-breaking year, given that Heathrow's busiest was 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, when passenger numbers reached 80.9 million.

A festive season surge in passenger traffic is expected, with Heathrow predicting that 6.5 million people will pass through the airport this month, which would be a 10 per cent increase on the December 2022 figure of 5.9 million.

Meanwhile, Advantage Travel Partnership, a network of independent UK travel agents, said its members have noted a 44 per cent leap in bookings for flights leaving between December 18 and 28, compared with the same period last year.

Earlier this week, Heathrow was ranked as the fifth most stressful airport in the world to travel through, in a survey that collated passenger numbers, airport size, passenger density per square metre, delays and distance from city centre.

Gatwick, another airport serving London, came top of the list compiled by the visa information website VisaGuide World.

According to the survey, half of the world's 10 most stressful airports are in Europe, with the other half in the United States.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 12:52 PM