Heathrow has plunged to a £2 billion annual loss after the “toughest” year in the airport’s 75-year history as the pandemic saw passenger numbers crash by 73%.
The number of people passing through the west London airport tumbled from 80.9 million in 2019 to 22.1 million last year – a level not seen since the 1970s – and more than half of those travelled before the Covid-19 crisis struck.
The group’s mammoth loss last year compares with profits of £546 million in 2019.
This came despite the group’s move to slash costs by nearly £400 million, reduce spending by £700 million and raise £2.5 billion to help see it through the crisis.
Its cost-cutting action saw it slash its management team by about a third and around a quarter of frontline staff take voluntary redundancy.
Heathrow said it is now preparing for a “safe restart of travel” this year.
But bosses called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver measures to support the stricken sector in next week’s Budget, making a plea for 100% business rates relief, an extension of the furlough scheme and to revive VAT-free shopping for tourists to the UK.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “2020 has been the toughest year by far in Heathrow’s 75-year history.”
But he added: “We can be hopeful for 2021, with Britain on the cusp of becoming the first country in the world to safely resume international travel and trade at scale.
“Getting aviation moving again will save thousands of jobs and reinvigorate the economy, and Heathrow will be working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a robust plan underpinned by science and backed by industry.”