Heathrow shrugs off strike threat as airport eyes busiest ever summer after scoring £189m profit

  • Heathrow posted an £189m pre-tax profit for the opening three months of 2024
  • Passenger numbers jumped by 9.5%, partly due to high demand from East Asia

London Heathrow anticipates its busiest ever summer this year, despite the looming threat of industrial action at Europe’s biggest airport. 

The airport rebounded to profit in the first quarter of 2024 after a record 18.5 million travellers came through the airport. 

It posted a £189million pre-tax profit for the opening three months of 2024, compared to a £60million loss during the same period last year.

Passenger numbers jumped by 9.5 per cent, which Heathrow partly attributed to greater business travel to destinations like Mumbai and New Delhi and a resurgence in demand from East Asia.

Rebound: Heathrow airport posted an £189million pre-tax profit for the opening three months of 2024, compared to a £60million loss during the same period last year 

It observed growth across ‘almost all markets,’ particularly the UK, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, where customer traffic increased by double-digit percentage levels.

Consequently, Heathrow now expects passenger volumes in 2024 will total a record 82.4 million, up from 79 million the previous year.

The travel hub expects the upcoming summer season will be its busiest ever, ‘even if unnecessary industrial action materialises’.

On Tuesday, Unite the union announced that 800 Heathrow staff will go on strike between 7 and 13 May over the airport’s plans to outsource hundreds of roles to save money.

By the start of June, employees in passenger services, who help travellers find their connecting flights, trolley operations, and campus security, will have their jobs outsourced, according to Unite. 

A separate 72-hour strike involving 50 refuelling staff is due to commence on 4 May, to coincide with the early May bank holiday weekend.

Heathrow said it has a ‘robust operating plan in place’ to ensure the airport keeps running if walkouts go ahead.

Javier Echave, Heathrow’s outgoing chief financial officer, said the airport ‘is on a strong financial footing with a clear flightpath ahead.

‘On the horizon is Heathrow’s busiest summer yet, with more passengers and destinations served than ever before.’

British Airways recently launched a new route from the West London hub to Abu Dhabi and is due to open further routes to Kos, Greece and Izmir, Turkey.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has a new route from Heathrow to Bangalore, India, while low-cost airline Vueling now flies directly to Barcelona and Paris-Orly.

Heathrow also called on Wednesday for the UK Government to ‘rethink anti-growth policies,’ such as the tourist tax and ‘unnecessary’ visas for transiting passengers.

Until the start of 2021, international visitors could claim back VAT on items acquired but not consumed in Britain.

Hundreds of retailers and organisations have blamed the refund scheme’s abolition for driving tourists to shop in other popular holiday destinations like Paris, Milan and Rome.

Bringing back tax-free shopping would add up to £4.1billion to UK GDP and support 78,000 jobs, according to consultancy Oxford Economics.

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