Terminals struggling to cope due to staff shortages
Airports across London are getting much busier
Heathrow Airport in March recorded its best passenger numbers since the Covid pandemic began – but now the travel hub is struggling with huge queues and frustrated flyers. According to data released by the airport, nearly 4.2 million passengers passed through in March, making it the busiest month for Heathrow since March 2020.
This is an increase of nearly 675 per cent on passenger numbers from March last year, when the UK was in the middle of its third national lockdown. The sharp rise in passenger numbers follows a slow start to the year for Heathrow Airport, which saw travel numbers dented by the Omicron variant and Covid testing requirements.
Heathrow said March’s passenger boom was in large part due to the government’s decision to scrap all travel restrictions for those entering the country, with many travellers taking advantage of this by booking weekend breaks and holidays over the Easter period. According to the airport, however, travel into the UK by those from abroad remains low due to testing requirements in other countries and the continued presence of Covid in the UK.
The news comes after several turbulent weeks for Heathrow, which has seen passengers at the airport faced with cancelled flights, IT failures and large queues throughout. Angry passengers have reported being forced to stand in queues for hours at check-in, boarding and passport control.
Heathrow Airport said that the delays have been caused by a shortage of staff due to Covid-related absences, as well as the unexpected sudden increase in passengers.
The airport said resources were “stretched” but that it was preparing for a surge in demand over the spring and summer, with traveller numbers expected to reach similar levels to 2019. Earlier this year, Heathrow announced a huge hiring spree, with 12,000 new hires due to start in jobs across the airport over the coming months.
CEO of Heathrow Airport John Holland-Kaye said: “It is fantastic to see the airport coming back to life after two years, and I want to thank all Team Heathrow colleagues for working together to serve our passengers. Everyone at Heathrow is doing everything we can to make sure passengers get on their way as smoothly and safely as possible.”
Lisa Haseldine - Local Democracy Reporter
April 17, 2022