London Heathrow has hiked its annual passenger forecast again as it continued to benefit from a resurgence in overseas travel.
Britain’s largest airport now expects 54.4 million travellers to come through its premises this year, which would be around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.
At the height of the Omicron variant outbreak in December, it had predicted a total of 45 million people for 2022 before elevating that figure to 53 million last month following a significant surge in demand.
Upgraded outlook: London Heathrow now expects 54.4 million travellers to come through its premises this year, which would be around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels
As a result, it anticipates revenues will more than double from the previous year to £2.59billion while adjusted underlying earnings are set to skyrocket by 257 per cent to £1.37billion.
Yet the airport cautioned that operating costs are forecast to climb by almost half due to investment measures and soaring energy prices increasing utility costs.
Heathrow flew 20.1 million passengers in the first five months of 2022, compared to just under 3 million during the equivalent time last year when rules regarding cross-border travel were highly prohibitive.
This sudden rebound in travellers has often left the airport struggling to cope as staff shortages have led to long check-in queues and flight cancellations.
Those problems are likely to continue over the summer as British Airways check-in and ground employees based at Heathrow voted by a wide margin today to go on strike over pay.
According to the Unite and GMB unions, the dispute centres on a 10 per cent pay cut imposed at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic not being reinstated and British Airways offering a 10 per cent one-off bonus payment.
Troubles: Some flights were axed at Heathrow this week after technical issues arose in its baggage reclaim areas, leading to trolleys of unattended luggage piling up outside the airport
An overwhelming majority of those balloted approved the planned walkout, whose dates have not been confirmed but are set to happen during the summer holidays in order to cause mass disruption.
BA said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the result, adding: ‘Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4billion, we made an offer of a 10 per cent payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.’
The vote to strike comes two days ago after about 30 flights were axed at Heathrow because of technical problems in its baggage reclaim areas, leading to trolleys of unattended luggage piling up outside the airport.
Before then, staff shortages led to many holidaymakers looking to get away during the recent Platinum Jubilee half-term and Easter holidays being affected by heavy delays in getting through security or cancelled flights.
Heathrow admitted in an investor report that ‘resources remain tight’ but said it was working with airlines, Border Force and ground handlers to minimise disruption ahead of the summer holidays.
In anticipation of the demand surge, it has reopened Terminal 4, hired more security officers, engineers and service workers, and enhanced its use of automation to try and lower wait times.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland Kaye apologised to passengers who have endured disruption on their journeys, saying: ‘We have faced 40 years of growth in just four months, and that has put the entire aviation industry under pressure.
‘We’re working hard to ramp up our operations for the summer peak as quickly as we can with the same level of security officers this summer as in 2019, and we have reopened Terminal 4, which will be serving over 30 airlines by mid-July.
‘Our operating plan is working, and the vast majority of passengers have had good, predictable journeys.’