Heathrow cedes Europe’s largest airport title to Paris Charles de Gaulle

Heathrow Airport

London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday reported that, for the first time, Paris Charles de Gaulle has overtaken it as Europe’s largest airport, with Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt close behind.

“The U.K.’s hub airport is no longer the busiest airport in Europe, competitors such as Charles de Gaulle have exceeded us in terms of passenger numbers as they benefit from a testing regime,” Heathrow said in a statement. “Without a rapid move to testing, the U.K. will fall even further behind its European competitors and the economic recovery will fail to get off the ground.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic grounded flights, all three continental rivals implemented testing regimes, but Britain failed to approve passenger testing that could scale back quarantine requirements.

Despite pressure from the travel industry, Britain still requires travelers from most countries to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival, making most business and leisure travel impractical.

The UK Government has announced an intention to introduce testing for passengers from high risk countries by 1st December to help restart the UK economy. Heathrow Airport however expects passenger numbers to fall more than previously forecast this year and rebound more slowly in 2021.

The airport now expects to serve 22.6 million passengers this year and 37.1 million in 2021, down from a June forecast of 29.2 million and 62.8 million. The forecast for this year represents at 72% drop from 2019.

The number of passengers using Heathrow for the first nine months fell 69% to 19 million. The airport also reported a pre-tax loss of 1.52 billion pounds ($1.97 billion) during the same period.

Photo: AP/Matt Dunham