Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow in the UK, has recorded its first adjusted annual profit since 2019 after welcoming 79.2m passengers in 2023. 

The airport recorded an adjusted profit of £38m as it continued its post-pandemic recovery with its passenger traffic hitting it’s third-highest ever level, welcoming almost 30% more passengers than in 2022. 

CEO Thomas Woldbye said: “2023 was a good year for Heathrow from a challenging start to a great finish. We delivered much improved service for our customers and managed to turn a small profit after three consecutive years of losses. 

“That’s a great platform to build on, although in 2024, we are expected to deliver even further improved service to more passengers, but with airport charges cut by 20% in real terms.” 

Heathrow’s profit in 2023 marked a 105.6% change from its 2022 earnings, which saw an adjusted loss before tax of £684m and set up Woldbye to deliver on his ambitions of achieving record passenger numbers in 2024, his first full year as CEO after replacing John Holland-Kayne in October

However, Woldbye emphasised that “tough choices” would need to be made by the airport to sustain its profitability in the face of the Civil Aviation Authority’s H7 settlement covering a five-year period from January 2022. 

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The UK aviation regulator set a price control for airport charges at Heathrow for the H7 period in March 2023 as part of its legal role under the Civil Aviation Act 2012 to impose economic regulations on UK airports with significant market power. 

The cap, setting an average maximum price per passenger of £25.43, came into force in 2024 and is expected to drop further with the CAA saying it took the rising passenger numbers after the pandemic into account when making its decision. 

However, the settlement was also designed to allow the airport to continue making multi-billion pound investments into its facilities, such as the £1bn being put into upgrading security lanes with next generation equipment in line with the UK Government’s mandate to allow the easing of restrictions on liquids from June 2024.