Heathrow raises forecasts as coronation kick-starts busy summer

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  • First-quarter passenger numbers up 74%
  • Airport wanted King Charles terminal -Times

By Sarah Young

LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) – Heathrow passenger numbers reached 95% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter, prompting it to lift 2023 forecasts, the British airport said on Wednesday, adding that it was prepared for a busy summer starting with the coronation of King Charles.

Seeking a slice of the royal action, Britain and Europe’s busiest air travel hub, had wanted to name its Terminal 5 after King Charles but he declined the offer on environmental grounds, the Times reported on Wednesday.

Asked about the matter, Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said the airport was proud of its association with the royal family – Terminal 2 is named the Queen’s terminal – and it would celebrate the May 6 coronation in other ways.

“The naming of infrastructure is a question for the Cabinet Office,” Holland-Kaye told Reuters.

Heathrow now expects between 70 million and 78 million passengers this year, up from the 58 million to 73 million it had forecast in February but not quite catching up with the 81 million passengers in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strong demand for Caribbean holidays and a recovery in domestic flights lifted passenger numbers in the January to March period. But the company posted a 139 million pound ($173 million) first-quarter adjusted loss despite the 74% rise in traffic.

The airport blamed landing fees the airport charges airlines, which are set by the sector regulator, saying they were “too low”. It is appealing against the regulator’s decision.

“The airlines have been able to put their prices up,” Holland-Kaye said. “We are still loss-making while the airlines are returning to profit.”

Heathrow’s operations have been resilient despite strikes by security staff in the first part of the year, he said.

Holland-Kaye is due to step down this year after the board has appointed a successor.

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Photo: Union flags are erected in Windsor, Britain. King Charles III’s Coronation takes place at Westminster Abbey in London on 06 May 2023. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

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