Heathrow is to hire 12,000 staff to handle an expected summer holiday boom, the UK’s busiest airport has said as it warned the recovery in the aviation industry is “being overshadowed by war and Covid”.
Passenger numbers at the London hub were almost half pre-pandemic levels last month – and 15% below Heathrow’s own forecast – at only 2.8 million passengers.
“Aviation’s recovery remains overshadowed by war and Covid uncertainty,” said John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow. “But we need to ensure we are geared up to meet peak potential demand this summer.”
The airport said that at the busiest times this summer it expects passenger numbers to hit 85% of pre-pandemic levels. However, it warned the airport would feel significantly busier than that because of additional pre-departure checks, and it needed to embark on a recruitment drive.
“This is higher than current airline, handler and airport capacity,” the airport said. “So we are putting passengers first by gearing up across the airport for peak demand, working with airlines to reduce check-in times and recruiting 12,000 new colleagues, as well as reopening Terminal 4 before July.”
Heathrow added that it was “particularly concerned over Border Force’s ability to scale up to meet demand” for the summer crowds.
The airport said the recovery in inbound traveller numbers remained slow because of testing and quarantine requirements in many overseas markets, and the aviation industry faces a host of additional concerns.
“We also face headwinds from higher fuel prices, longer flight times to destinations impacted by airspace closures, concerns from US travellers over war in Europe and the likelihood of new ‘variants of concern’,” the airport said. “Together [these] create huge uncertainty over the passenger forecasts this year.”