Three resort airports each handled more passengers in June than did London Heathrow – formerly the busiest airport in Europe.
Antalya in Turkey, Sochi in Russia and Palma in Spain each handled more people than the UK’s biggest hub.
Russia and Turkey dominate European aviation, with the UK lagging so far behind that even Paris’s secondary airport, Orly, is beating Heathrow.
The UK’s busiest airport fails to make the top 15 – and was overtaken by Athens, which previously had only 32 per cent of Heathrow’s passengers.
The data were compiled by Ralph Anker on behalf of the analysts Air Service One.
Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, hub for Aeroflot, tops the list – beating the new Istanbul airport into second place
Domodedovo, the second airport in the Russian capital, took third place – with Istanbul’s secondary airport, Sabiha Gokcen, completing the top four.
The following seven were some distance behind the leaders but close to each other in numbers: St Petersburg, Frankfurt, Antalya, Madrid, Moscow Vnukovo, Paris CDG and Amsterdam.
The Spanish airports of Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona took 12th and 13th place respectively, with another resort airport – Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea – in 14th place, just ahead of Paris Orly.
Ralph Anker said: “Despite the gradual relaxation of travel rules in the UK, Heathrow faces a long climb to get back to its previous position as Europe’s busiest airport and may never get there now that Istanbul’s multi-runway, mega-airport is up and running.”
But he said figures on passenger numbers were encouraging, overall, compared with earlier in the year.
“To get into the top 15 in April you needed to handle almost 500,000 passengers. In May this had risen to 700,000 and in June the cut-off point was almost 1.2 million.”
Heathrow failed to achieve one million, with just 957,000 passengers – compared with almost seven million per day in 2019.
Chief executives of the UK’s biggest airlines have written to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, to demand a relaxation of the travel restrictions that are suppressing demand for aviation.
The bosses of British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic said: “The UK aviation recovery is far behind countries in Europe. Travel bookings in Germany are now at 60 per cent of 2019 levels. France is at 48 per cent. Here in the UK, we are booking just 16 per cent of trips compared to pre-pandemic. This is not sustainable.
“Despite tentative steps forward, time is fast running out to put the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism industries back on track for a sustainable recovery to protect the millions of jobs they support. We cannot afford to stand still over this vital summer period, and urge you to act.”
Announcing the opportunity for US and European travellers to visit the UK without the need to quarantine, Mr Shapps said: “We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel and today is another important step forward.
“Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade – this is progress we can all enjoy.
“We will of course continue to be guided by the latest scientific data .”