UK airports tumble in European league table

Heathrow drops 16 places in European airport league while Gatwick slips from 10th to 106th

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 22 June 2021 10:26
Heathrow chief executive criticises costly PCR testing system for travellers

Britain’s airports are performing far worse than European competitors because of UK government travel restrictions, a study has found.

The analysis of data by Ralph Anker for Air Service One is headed: “Once Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow set to rank just 17th in May for passengers.”

As other European airports ramp up operations, Heathrow has slipped down the league. It was sixth in December, 12th in January, 13th in both February and March and 14th in April.

It has now been overtaken by Barcelona, Palma and Paris’s second airport, Orly.

But the author says: “If Heathrow’s decline in its European rankings is alarming, spare a thought for most of the other airports in the UK.

“While Heathrow retained almost eight per cent of its 2019 traffic, most UK airports performed significantly worse.”

Most of the country’s major airports have reported low single-figure percentages for April 2021 compared with their business two years ago.

Stansted and Manchester, both owned by Manchester Airports Group, recorded “retention percentages” of just over three per cent, while Birmingham and Edinburgh were just under three per cent.

Bristol was at just under two per cent.

Gatwick, once the busiest single-runway airport in the world, saw just 1.3 per cent of passengers. It was previously in the top 10 of European airports, but has now slipped to 106th.

Four airports were doing even worse: Leeds Bradford and Cardiff were both at 0.3 per cent in April, while East Midlands handled one-1,000th of 2019 passengers. Southend airport saw no passengers at all for the entire month.

The study emerged as the director-general of Eurocontrol reported “growth across almost all the Eurocontrol network”.

Eamonn Brennan tweeted: “France +20%, Italy +17% & Greece +32%. However, UK was down 3%.”

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the challenging times facing all sectors of transport as a result of Covid-19, which is why we have put in place a world-leading support package, including around​ £7bn of support benefiting the air transport sector, as well as schemes to raise capital, flexibilities with tax bills and the extended furlough scheme.”

At present holidays abroad from the UK without the need to quarantine on return are possible only in Gibraltar and Iceland.

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