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Heathrow Airport reports $2.9 billion loss as passenger numbers drop to 1970s levels

Feb. 24, 2021
3 min read
Heathrow Airport reports $2.9 billion loss as passenger numbers drop to 1970s levels
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The travel and aviation industries have been at the center of those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. And, included in that grouping are airports — especially some of the world’s largest, including London’s Heathrow.

On Wednesday, the U.K.’s largest airport reported a £2 billion (about $2.9 billion) annual loss as passenger demand and restrictions caused the airport’s numbers to drop to levels last seen in the 1970s.

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In the airport’s report, it said that the number of passengers who traveled to, from or through the airport totaled just 22.1 million in 2020, and more than half of that number traveled in January and February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. In 2019, almost 81 million passengers transited through Heathrow.

After one of the “most challenging years” of its 25-year history, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, according to CEO John Holland-Kaye. However, the airport said that it may not be able to continue if its passenger numbers remain low.

That said, after cutting gross operating costs, reducing capital expenditure and raising funds, it has £3.9 billion of liquidity — enough to see the airport through until 2023.

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Related: All flights from Heathrow Airport are now nearly £10 more expensive

But it’s pressuring Chancellor Rishi Sunak to include 100% business relief rates and an extension of the furlough scheme in his budget. The budget is set to be delivered on March 3.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the country’s roadmap out of lockdown. If all goes according to plan and there are no delays, all social contact restrictions will be lifted by June 21. International travel could resume as soon as May 17, though a new version of the Global Travel Taskforce will relay its findings on if that will be possible by April 12.

“For the aviation sector, we can start to plan ahead for May 17 to make sure we’ve got the people and the planes in place so that we can get, not just people on their holidays, but also start to get British businesses moving again,” Holland-Kaye told the BBC.

Since the start of the pandemic, the airport has been at the forefront of calls to the government to bring travel back. Holland-Kaye had encouraged the government to implement a testing requirement for arrivals, a move that the government adapted 10 months into the pandemic.

Airlines and holiday providers have signaled a positive return to travel in 2021 and beyond. On Tuesday, several U.K. companies showed signs of pent-up travel demand. EasyJet holidays said, for example, that bookings surged overnight by as much as 600% following Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement.

Related: Flight and holiday home bookings skyrocket as much as 600% after UK roadmap announcement

Featured image by A passenger with luggage is seen at London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021 . - A new 10-day hotel quarantine regime for British residents returning to the UK from 33 coronavirus variant hotspots begins on February 15, despite concern from the country's busiest airport Heathrow that "significant gaps" remain in the plans. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more