It’s been revealed that passenger traffic has steeply declined at Heathrow Airport, with the hub serving fewer travellers from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece last month. These are countries at the centre of the European crisis.
This week, Heathrow Airport owner BAA said that passenger numbers between the hub and Portugal fell the most, at 11.4%. TAP, Portugal’s national carrier, has become a targeted acquisition for the biggest airline business at the airport, IAG. Passenger traffic from Spain fell 2.5%, while there was a 9.2% fall from Italy and 11.3% from Greece.
Total, the hub served some 5.8 million people during the last month, which is 0.6% fewer than the same monthly period last year. BAA blames the decline in traffic on tough comparisons from 2011, when travel was driven by a late Easter holiday and the royal wedding.
The released figures confirm a trend that International Airlines Group (IAG) flagged last week after the group issued a warning about slowing demand at its Spanish subsidiary, Iberia. The airline group said a worsening economic environment in Spain hit is performance and undermined the strength of its long-haul services out of London. BAA’s figures also come out after Thomas Cook recently admitted that bookings to Greece are down compared to last year – particularly travel from Germany.
The overall passenger traffic results for the month across all of BAA’s airports in the UK came out a little better. Over 9.3 million people passed through Heathrow, Southampton, Stansted, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports – a 0.1% decline year-on-year. Passenger traffic at Southampton fell 4.7%, while 5.5% fewer people passed through Stansted.
These declines were offset by a 2.2% rise in traffic at Edinburgh (which has now been turned over to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP)), 6.2% increase at Glasgow and 13% jump at Aberdeen. These figures took into account the impact of last year’s volcanic ash cloud.
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews says the performance of Heathrow Airport and its other airports is encouraging. However, the impact of the crisis in the eurozone is still felt with steep declines in passenger numbers from the worst affected nations, as well as declined cargo traffic.
Matthews added that this is why Britain should urgently build better connections to the nations whose economies are growing – like Brazil, India and China. With the only hub airport in the UK already operating at full capacity, Germany and France are forging ahead, leaving the country in the dust.
Meanwhile, BAA is expected to submit plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport in a request for options to maintain the UK’s hubs. This plan has previously been rejected by the government, and this isn’t anticipated to change. However, reports suggest that BAA is prepared to seek a judicial review if the plans aren’t examined along with other options in a revamp of policy on aviation. One of the other options due to be reviewed is a new hub in the Thames estuary, which is prominently supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who opposes a third Heathrow runway.
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