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Heathrow passenger numbers near pre-Covid levels

Passenger numbers at Heathrow were just 2% below pre-pandemic levels last month, new figures show.

Some 6.1 million passengers travelled through the terminals in November, the west London airport said.

That is compared with 6.2 million during the same month in 2019.

Demand for flights to North America peaked before Thanksgiving, with more than 50,000 passengers flying across the Atlantic from Heathrow on November 17, which was the last Friday before the holiday.

Diwali celebrations also sparked a surge in travel to India.

Last month saw the first transatlantic flight by an airliner powered by pure sustainable aviation fuel (Saf).

Virgin Atlantic operated the flight from Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Heathrow chief executive Thomas Woldbye said: “For so many, holidays and cultural festivities are all about spending quality time with friends and family.

“Last month saw passengers travelling to celebrate Thanksgiving and Diwali with their loved ones, and we are making final preparations for the Christmas getaway.

“We need to protect these benefits of aviation in a world without carbon, which the history-making 100% Saf transatlantic flight proved is possible.

“Now we need collaboration between industry and Government – who both have critical deliveries – to scale-up Saf production to make 100% Saf flights an everyday reality.”

Heathrow expects about 6.5 million passengers to travel through the airport this month.

That would be a 10% increase on the figure of 5.9 million in December 2022 and behind only 2019 (6.7 million) for Heathrow’s most passengers in the final month of a year.

Last month, Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial said it will sell its 25% share in Heathrow.

Some 10% will go to the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), and a 15% stake to French private equity group Ardian.

The Sunday Times reported that the PIF and Ardian could take majority control of Heathrow ownership as other investors consider selling their shares.