London Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the UK has handled only 19.4 million passengers in 2021, the lowest level since 1972, hit by Covid-19 pandemic-induced travel curbs.

This marks a 12.3% decrease from the 2020 figure of 22.1 million passengers.

Although current passenger volume is 23% less than projected, LHR anticipates a strong next quarter for outbound tourism and hopes to reach its 2022 target of 45.5 million travellers.

The airport’s pre-tax loss narrowed to £1.8bn in 2021 from £2bn in 2020. The cumulative losses of £3.8bn were driven by high fixed costs and reduced passenger traffic.

Revenue generated for the full year ended 31 December 2021 was £1.2bn, up 3% from the prior year. Adjusted EBITDA increased 42% year-on-year to £384m.

LHR also maintained liquidity of £4bn, which is said to be sufficient to support its recovery while reducing costs by £870m over the last two years.

Furthermore, the airport intends to keep a check on ticket prices and ensure that the hike is below 2% on the total ticket fare.

LHR noted that the decision to remove testing restrictions by the UK Government has supported outbound tourism, though inbound tourism and business travel still face hurdles as a result of testing in other countries.

It added that for travel to return to pre-pandemic levels, all curbs must be removed.   

LHR also said that its 2050 net-zero aviation target remains on track. 

The airport halted airport expansion works during the pandemic, though the plans are still on the table and will be reviewed over the course of next year.

According to LHR, Covid-19 has strengthened the case for expansion.

In a statement, the airport stated: “While we have paused work to expand Heathrow during Covid-19, the crisis has shown the pent-up demand from airlines to fly from Heathrow, as well as how critical Heathrow is for UK’s trade routes and the risk to the economy of Britain relying on EU hubs, which can close borders overnight.” 

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “While 2021 was the worst year in Heathrow’s history, I am very proud of the way that colleagues focussed on passengers, and we were able to maintain our position as one of the top 10 airports in the world for service.

“Demand is now starting to recover and we are working closely with airlines to scale up our operations and reopen Terminal 4 for the summer travel peak.”