The UK’s biggest airport is looking to open the terminal, closed due to the pandemic, in time for a ‘summer surge’
First Gatwick’s south terminal, now Heathrow’s terminal four. It’s very encouraging to see UK airports starting to resume business as usual – just in time for summer, too! Heathrow is certainly looking to cash in on that summer holiday season, announcing in a recent press release that “a surge of Brits heading for summer sun” will help encourage a recovery of its dwindling passenger numbers. Those numbers fell to 19.4 million last year, the lowest since 1972. The airport blames this on the UK’s travel restrictions as well as the pandemic, stating that it was the only European airport to experience such a drastic reduction in numbers owing to how extensive the government’s lockdown on international travel was. What’s more, the airport has now reported cumulative pandemic losses of £3.8 billion, a staggering amount that explains the airport’s move to be fully operational in time for July. Despite currently being 23% behind their current passenger number forecast due to lower-than-expected traffic at the beginning of the year, Heathrow has stated that “We expect to meet our 2022 target of 45.5 million passengers.” While this may seem like a tough target to meet, the airport does have one major factor on its side – pent-up travel demand.
You can’t have two years of minimal international travel without having a surge of people desperate for some holiday sun at the end of it. This ‘summer surge’ will undoubtedly be a crucial moment for recovering aviation industries around the world, as it will provide the largest boost to their recovery efforts until next winter. That is, of course, assuming that there are no more nasty Covid-related surprises in store for us. Additionally, airports will still have to contend with travel restrictions in the summer, with Heathrow explaining that “We don’t expect travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until all restrictions have been removed, passengers can travel with no checks and are confident they will not be reimposed.” With a slow recovery on the cards, the summer surge becomes even more crucial to keep up a general industry-wide recovery effort. The money raised from the aforementioned pent-up demand will be vital in ensuring airports and airlines don’t take any more debilitating economic hits. It’s pretty clear why Heathrow wants all its terminals running at full capacity in time for the summer. They’ve timed it well, then – both terminals three and four were shut back in May of 2020 owing to the pandemic, with terminal 3 being re-opened last year. The re-opening of terminal four in July will mark the airport’s return to full capacity, and hopefully a slow return to normal.