Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport again

One year after COVID travel restrictions demoted London’s Heathrow airport to Europe’s 10th busiest airport, the west London hub has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and regained its crown as Europe’s busiest airport.

Heathrow welcomed 5.8 million passengers between July and September, with airlines and their ground handlers seeing 18 million passengers successfully away over summer, more than Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, but despite the rebound, passengers numbers were still 15% below pre-pandemic levels. Some of this down to the restrictions in passengers being allowed to transit the airport by authorities – but this will change in the near future it is anticipated.

In 2021, Heathrow was the UK’s most valuable port, seeing £153bn in non-EU imports and exports passing through the hub, handling 75% of all UK air cargo and more cargo by value than all other UK airports combined and serving 354 destinations in the process. 

However, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam cargo volumes have recovered from the pandemic quicker than Heathrow, due to less reliance on the belly-hold cargo capacity that is dependent on passenger flights.

Cargo tonnage recovery to pre-pandemic levels:

  • Amsterdam – 108%
  • Frankfurt – 107%
  • Paris – 100%
  • Heathrow – 87%

Despite the dip in cargo recovery, the airport remains confident for the future with plans to invest in infrastructure over the next fIve years to grow capacity and the sustainability and efficiency of operations. With passenger aircraft (PAX) comes belly hold capacity and therefore the ability to move products. They are interlinked.

Over the same period Heathrow’s Cargo strategy will grow the airport’s cargo proposition, working closely with the Heathrow Cargo Community to develop the strategy in four key areas:

  • Policy Change: Working with Government and industry to grow efficiency
  • Transformation of the Cargo Estate: Developing world class, sustainable facilities
  • Community Engagement: Leading a collaborative approach for all stakeholders
  • Digitalisation: Supporting the adoption of technology to reduce cargo throughput times

Heathrow’s proposition is compelling and underlines its strategic importance in our global air freight operations planning:

  • Over 350 destinations
  • Multiple daily frequencies
  • Easy access to key manufacturers
  • Unrivalled connections opportunities
  • Ideally located for key business clusters
  • High value and pharmaceutical handling capability
  • Strong relationships with key UK Government departments

While our global air freight network and teams continue to handle increasing cargo volumes, we monitor market capacity and identify opportunities to use regional airports, when it will benefit our customers, ensuring that expectations and timelines are met.

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