Paris’s Charles de Gaulle has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s busiest airport, with the London hub reporting falling passenger numbers and rising losses.
Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84% compared with the same period in 2019, as the airport started to fall behind rivals that are using COVID-19 testing regimes.
Heathrow saw 18.97 million passengers in the year to the end of September, compared to the 19.27 million at Charles de Gaulle.
Both are followed closely by Amsterdam’s Schiphol (17.6 million) and Frankfurt in Germany (16.16 million).
Heathrow’s third-quarter revenue fell by 72% year on year to £239m, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37m.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye has regularly pushed for passenger testing as a way to keep the aviation and travel industry going during the coronavirus pandemic.
He told Sky’s Ian King Live programme that the airport’s results “should be a wake-up call to the government that if they do nothing to protect the economy, then we will fall behind”.
“We’ve been calling for a common international standard for airport testing since April and we have still not seen real action from the government on this yet,” he said.
Mr Holland-Kaye added: “We have no right to be the fifth-biggest economy in the world. Unless we take action to protect the economy, we will not only lose our position, but we will most importantly lose jobs.”
A government taskforce was launched earlier this month to look at ways of reducing the two-week isolation period required of people returning to the UK from some countries.
Mr Holland-Kaye said the taskforce is expected to report early in November and the calls he has been part of were “very encouraging”.
“We could be up and running for the whole of the UK by the end of November (with passenger testing),” he said, adding that – as well as testing arrivals – he wanted to trial testing departures, firstly on the busy London-New York route.
“We need action from the government to protect millions of jobs in this country and reopening our borders safely through testing is the way to do it.”
Trade association Airports Council International Europe said this week that nearly 200 European airports face insolvency in the coming months unless air travel begins to recover.
But Heathrow said that, with £4.5bn of liquidity, its financial position remains “robust” and its cash reserves are “sufficient” for the next 12 months “even under an extreme scenario with no revenue”.