Heathrow Airport in the UK has reported that it handled nearly 22.1 million passengers in 2020, a decrease of 72.7% compared to 2019.

The coronavirus-induced lockdowns and border closures led to a loss of approximately 58.8 million passengers.

The volumes of cargo witnessed a decrease of 28.2% because of the travel restrictions on international trade.

Before the pandemic, nearly 94% of the cargo travelled in the belly hold of passenger aircraft, which has been reduced drastically.

To increase dedicated cargo flights, the airport worked with airlines and the cargo community throughout the pandemic.

Some carriers started using passenger aircraft to transport cargo only, shipping essential equipment such as Covid-19 testing kits, PPE and respirators.

In 2020, more than 19,000 cargo-only flights travelled through Heathrow.

The airport also deployed UV robots, UV handrail technology, anti-viral wraps, hand sanitiser dispensers and Perspex screens for the health and safety of passengers and airport staff.

The airport stated that it handled almost 1.1 million passengers during December 2020, indicating a decrease of 82.9% compared to the same month of 2019, as a new strain of the Covid-19 coronavirus took its toll on air travel.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “The past year has been incredibly challenging for aviation. While we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable. The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival.

“We need a road map out of this lockdown, and a full waiver of business rates. This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership in creating a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing that will allow travel and trade to restart safely so that we can start to deliver the Prime Minister’s vision of a Global Britain.”

Heathrow, in collaboration with ExpressTest, expanded its testing capacity by introducing privately operated centres at the airport.

The move came after the UK Government introduced its Test to Release programme, which gives incoming passengers the option to skip quarantine on day five after testing negative for Covid-19.