Feb 11 (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest airport Heathrow had a slow start to 2022 after Omicron fears ruined travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers, it said on Friday, although it was hopeful that outbound summer holidays could help offset the weakness.
Travel demand in January was weaker than expected, the airport to the west of London said in a statement, and over 56% down compared with pre-crisis levels in 2019, when Heathrow handled 80.9 million customers.
The airport, however, kept its forecast for the year unchanged of just over half of pre-pandemic levels, as bookings for summer holidays outside the UK were recovering even as tourism into the country remained weak.
The views echoed that of the world’s largest holiday company TUI, which said earlier this week that British holidaymakers were leading a recovery in summer demand as testing rules and restrictions are lifted.
“After a tough Christmas, Omicron has continued to bite and this has been a weak start to the year,” Heathrow Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said.
“Today’s removal of restrictions for vaccinated passengers in and out of the UK offers a ray of hope, but the Omicron hangover proves demand remains fragile.”
(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)
Photo – A plane passes a sign as it comes into land at Heathrow Airport in Hounslow, Britain. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL