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Heathrow airport dives into £2 billion annual loss

By AFP - Feb 24,2021 - Last updated at Feb 24,2021

This photo, taken on May 22, 2020, shows a passenger wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) arriving at Terminal 2 of Heathrow airport which reported heavy losses, on Wednesday (FP file photo)

LONDON — London's Heathrow airport dived into a pre-tax loss of £2 billion last year, a result that "underlines the devastating impact of COVID-19 on aviation", it said on Wednesday.

The loss, equivalent to $2.8 billion or 2.3 billion euros, reflected a 73 per cent plunge in passenger numbers, Heathrow said in a statement.

The airport, one of the world's busiest hubs, recorded a pre-tax profit of £546 million in 2019.

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye, who said passenger levels shrunk in 2020 to levels last seen in the 1970s, voiced optimism for the year ahead with Britain vaccinating millions of adults and preparing to exit its virus lockdown.

"We can be hopeful for 2021, with Britain on the cusp of becoming the first country in the world to safely resume international travel and trade at scale," he said in the earnings statement.

"Getting aviation moving again will save thousands of jobs and reinvigorate the economy."

Heathrow last year had 22 million passengers compared with 81 million in 2019.

More than half of the 22 million travelled in the first two months of last year, before the pandemic took hold and governments worldwide implemented national lockdowns.

Heathrow's revenue meanwhile tumbled 62 per cent to £1.2 billion in 2020, while cargo volumes slid 28 per cent.

Heathrow said it has £3.9 billion of liquidity, enough to see it through until 2023. 

The airport's last financial year was notable also owing to Britain's supreme court ruling that it could build a third runway. 

The court in December struck down a Court of Appeal ruling that the UK government had failed to take into account climate change commitments when in 2018 it approved the new runway.

Heathrow on Wednesday said it remains "focused on de-carbonising aviation".

The airport is owned by a consortium led by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial.

It also includes sovereign wealth funds from China, Singapore and Qatar as well as North American shareholders.

Despite remaining one of the world's largest airports, Heathrow was last year overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as Europe's top hub in terms of passenger numbers — blaming its relegation on delayed coronavirus testing and travel restrictions.

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