Heathrow Airport has revealed it plunged to a £2 billion annual loss after seeing passenger numbers collapse by 73 per cent as the pandemic battered the aviation industry.
The group’s hefty pre-tax loss for 2020 compares with profits of £546 million in 2019. Heathrow saw passenger numbers passing through the airport collapse to 22.1 million last year from 80.9 million in 2019 and said most of those travelled last January and February before the Covid-19 crisis struck.
Bosses called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver measures to support the stricken sector in next week’s Budget, making a plea for 100 per cent business rates relief, an extension of the furlough scheme and to revive VAT-free shopping for tourists to the UK.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “2020 has been one of our most challenging years – but despite £2billion of losses and shrinking to passenger levels we haven’t seen since the 70s, I am hugely proud of the way that our colleagues have kept our passengers safe and the UK’s hub airport open for vital supplies throughout.
“We can be hopeful for 2021, with Britain on the cusp of becoming the first country in the world to safely resume international travel.
“Getting aviation moving again will save thousands of jobs and reinvigorate the economy, and Heathrow will be working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a robust plan underpinned by science and backed by industry.”
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Meanwhile, the boss of Manchester Airports Group, which also includes East Midlands and London Stansted Airports, reiterated the demand for more Government support.
Group chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “Government statistics show the travel and tourism industry has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, with tens of thousands of jobs already lost and thousands more depending on the recovery of our sector.
“That is why we strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s recognition that international travel is a key part of the Government’s road map – and that overseas trips could resume in May if circumstances allow.
“That prospect will have given many people real hope for the summer ahead.
“The Global Travel Taskforce now has a vital job to do over the coming weeks to create a clear and deliverable plan for overseas travel ahead of the publication deadline of 12 April, so that people can start planning for the summer at the earliest opportunity.
“Despite this hugely important step in the right direction, we must not lose sight of the fact aviation will be one of the last sectors to reopen and our recovery from the biggest crisis we have ever faced will not happen overnight.”
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