UK airports have reported a combined loss of nearly 223 million passengers in 2020 due to the Covid-19-induced travel bans and restrictions.
Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data revealed that airports in the UK witnessed passenger traffic of around 74 million last year, which is less than a quarter of 2019’s figure of 297 million.
Among all the UK airports, Cardiff Airport (CWL) took the hardest hit, reporting a drop of 87% in passenger traffic in 2020.
The passenger numbers at the airport declined from 1.6 million in 2019 to 219,984 last year.
Furthermore, the airport has suffered an additional loss after Aer Lingus’ operators Stobart Air went into liquidation in the absence of a purchaser.
Stobart Air was expected to commence services between Cardiff and Belfast at the end of this month.
The regional airline also planned to initiate service between Cardiff and Dublin from August.
In March, the Welsh Government provided a grant of $60.06m (£42.6m) to Cardiff Airport for reducing ‘a similar level of debt’.
Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee was quoted by BBC as saying: “These figures lay bare the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on UK airports. With passengers down nearly 90% between April and December 2020, airports’ economic output was decimated and significant numbers of jobs were lost.”
Dee also warned the UK Government that the ‘overly cautious’ approach to restart travel can be ‘as bad, if not worse, than 2020.’
After Cardiff, Glasgow Prestwick (PIK) reported an 85.8% decrease in passengers while Exeter experienced a drop of 85.5%.
In addition, Heathrow Airport (LHR) noted a drop of 72.7% in passenger traffic, a decline from 80.9 million passengers in 2019 to 22.1 million in 2020.
Other worst-affected airports include Southampton (SOU) (83.4%), Leeds Bradford (LBA) (81.2%) and London City (LCY) (82.3%).
Last month, after banning international trips for months, the UK Government announced the gradual reopening of international travel at its airports for travelling to green-list countries.