London has fallen: Heathrow no longer Europe’s Busiest air hub

New strain of COVID-19 threatens to deepen the crisis in the British aviation industry

London has fallen: Heathrow no longer Europe’s Busiest air hub

London’s Heathrow Airport reported that it has received around 22.1 million travelers in 2020 – a sharp decrease compared to almost 81 million passengers it welcomed in 2019.

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Due to a plunge in travelers numbers, Heathrow has lost its leadership position among European airports by the passenger traffic volume as most countries kept their borders shut to contain coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Heathrow is set to fall to third place among other European airports, after the 73 percent collapse in passenger numbers.

Istanbul Airport has already outpaced Heathrow by passenger numbers, welcoming around 23.4 million people last year, and is likely to become Europe’s number one airport for 2020. Heathrow is also set to fall behind Paris Charles de Gaulle. France’s main airport served some 21.1 million passengers in the January-November period, one million less than Heathrow had for the whole year.  

Global airports saw annual passenger numbers plummet between 70 and 80 percent for the pandemic year, but some hubs logged smaller declines, allowing them to rise in the rankings. Largest Russian airport in terms of passenger and cargo traffic, Sheremetyevo International Airport, climbed three spots in the list of busiest European air hubs and now sits in fifth place. Sheremetyevo served 19.8 million passengers last year. 

The new strain of COVID-19 threatens to deepen the crisis in the British aviation industry after dozens of countries halted travel to and from the country and the British government introduced new restrictions.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye previously noted that the current government measures, such as testing rules for people arriving in England, cannot be maintained in the long-term. He said “aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation,” adding that he hopes that vaccines could facilitate a travel recovery later this year.