Heathrow: key airbridge for UK amid Covid-19
London Heathrow saw its passenger numbers shrank by 52 percent, In March, compared to the same time last year, as the UK entered lockdown. Many of the 3m journeys made were repatriations, following travel restrictions across markets as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’ (FCO’s) advice against all but essential travel.
Situation is expected to continue as initial forecasts show passenger demand in April is set to decrease by over 90%, with lasting and significant industry-wide effects predicted. In line with these forecasts, Heathrow moved to single runway operations on April 6th, and over the coming weeks will consolidate operations into Terminals 2 and 5 only. The move will protect long-term jobs at the airport by reducing operating costs, helping Heathrow to remain financially resilient.
Heathrow is now using its available capacity to prioritise cargo flights with medical supplies. The airport is well-placed to receive time-critical and temperature-sensitive medical supplies, such as ventilators, medicines and COVID-19 testing kits.
Busiest day for cargo only flights was 31st March 2020, with 38 dedicated cargo movements in just one day. During normal operations, Heathrow usually handles an average of 47 cargo only movements a week. Last year, Heathrow handled 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports.
Overall cargo volumes were impacted by grounded passenger fleets. During normal operations, 95% of cargo usually travels in the belly hold of passenger planes, a model which makes air freight more profitable for airlines and airports alike. However, over 100,000 metric tonnes of cargo still travelled through the airport in March, down 32.5% compared to the same time last year.
Last week, Heathrow donated 6,000 face masks to NHS teams working at Thames Valley Air Ambulance and Hillingdon Hospital. The airport has also provided educational resources to local schools and has redeployed Heathrow Community Rangers to assist with delivering donations to local food banks.
Glasgow-based airline Loganair flew from the UK’s only hub airport for the first time in its 58 year history. The airline will be operating from Heathrow on an interim basis following the closure of London City Airport to maintain vital connections between the capital and the Isle of Man. Heathrow is Britain’s only remaining air link to Belfast, with the airport serving as a vital airbridge to Northern Ireland during the pandemic.
Heathrow is working closely with Public Health England to implement measures to ensure passenger safety. These measures include the provision of hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers, additional cleaning and sanitation procedures as well as signage and floor stickers to remind passengers to socially distance. Our colleagues are also on hand to help manage the queues and ensure safe and adequate spacing between passengers.
Heathrow is ready to work with the Government and industry on science & research to develop measures for rapid health screening of passengers prior to travel. The airport is looking to develop processes which will help provide future passengers peace of mind when flying, but wants to ensure there is an international consensus for common measures – so the benefits of global travel can be realised to support the economic and social recovery from Covid-19.
“Heathrow continues to serve the nation by keeping vital supply lines open, and helping people get home. Now is the time to agree a common international standard for healthcare screening in airports so that when this crisis recedes, people can travel with confidence and we can get the British economy moving again.” John Holland-Kaye, CEO, Heathrow.