Heathrow expects summer holiday season to be ‘busiest on record’

<span>Heathrow has said it has ‘robust’ plans in place to keep the airport ‘running smoothly’, even if the staff strikes of last year are repeated.</span><span>Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP</span>
Heathrow has said it has ‘robust’ plans in place to keep the airport ‘running smoothly’, even if the staff strikes of last year are repeated.Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

Heathrow is expecting its busiest ever summer holiday season but faces uncertainty over its long-term future as the proposed £6bn sale of the UK’s biggest airport remains in doubt.

The airport said on Wednesday that the summer getaway this year was expected to be “the busiest on record” and promised to have “robust” plans in place to keep the airport “running smoothly”, even if staff strikes held last year are repeated.

The number of passengers using the airport this year is expected to hit more than 82.4 million. This would make it the busiest year on record, and above the previous high in 2019, when 80.9 million travelled through the airport.

Heathrow’s future is in the balance amid reports that a proposed deal to buy the airport from the Spanish construction company Ferrovial is on hold after Macquarie ruled out taking a stake.

The Australian investment firm had been interested in taking a 35% stake but withdrew its interest and no other bidders have emerged, the Telegraph reported earlier this month.

The deal would have supported a bid by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the private equity firm Ardian to take a 25% stake in the airport. However, the future of the airport’s ownership is now unclear.

The company said it made an £83m pre-tax profit for the three months until the end of March, up from the £139m loss it made for the same period in 2023.

However, it said it would need to maintain strong cost control and provide efficiencies to close a £400m gap in the latest settlement it received from the Civil Aviation Authority on the level of charges for passengers.

Earlier this month, the airport called on the government to scrap a new £10 charge for overseas travellers using the airport to connect to other flights, warning that it was hitting traveller numbers and putting UK airports at a competitive disadvantage to European rivals.

Heathrow repeated this call on Wednesday, while also urging ministers to rethink the “anti-growth” tourist tax, which means tourists pay VAT on purchases.

Javier Echave, the chief financial officer at Heathrow, said: “On the horizon is Heathrow’s busiest summer yet with more passengers and destinations served than ever before. We’re ready to continue delivering.”

The trade union Unite said earlier this week that hundreds of workers at Heathrow would strike in a dispute over the outsourcing of jobs.

Unite said about 800 of its members would launch a week of strikes from 7-13 May.

The union said workers in passenger services – who assist travellers to catch connecting flights – trolley operations and security guards will have their jobs outsourced by June.

Heathrow has said there will be no job losses due to the overhaul of operations and is continuing talks with Unite over those affected by the move.