HEATHROW lost its crown as Europe’s busiest airport to Frankfurt over the summer after passenger numbers bounced back more quickly at the German hub.
Just 1.42 million people passed through London’s biggest airport in August, down 81.5 per cent on last year, compared with 1.51 million handled by its arch-rival, latest figures show.
It is believed to be the first time in 70 years that Heathrow has not been at the top of Europe’s aviation league table.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said that the Government’s refusal to approve testing of arriving passengers for coronavirus, which could allow quarantining rules to be lifted, was holding back a return to flying and damaging the British economy.
He said: “They have testing in Germany and Frankfurt has been able to recover much more strongly. It’s not necessarily a permanent change but it will be if we don’t do something to save aviation.” Mr Holland-Kaye said that Heathrow was “not viable” at the current level of traffic.
The airport has facilities ready to be used for testing 14,000 passengers a day. There are currently 20,000 passengers arriving daily, about half of whom are not required to quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile official data showed that the UK’s GDP rebounded 6.6 per cent in July, the month that pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen. However, output is still 11.7 per cent below where it was in February before the start of the lockdown that sent the British economy into the deepest recession for a century.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Many people are rightly worried about the coming months or have already had their job or incomes affected. That’s why we’ve outlined a comprehensive Plan for Jobs to ensure nobody is left without hope or opportunity.”
The GDP rise was slightly weaker than had been hoped for in the City.
Thomas Pugh, UK economist at Capital Economics, said:”July was probably the last of the big step-ups in activity and a full recovery probably won’t be achieved until early 2022. Now that most sectors are up and running again there is little scope for further large rises in monthly GDP.
“On top of that talk of tax rises at the next Budget, a further deterioration in the Brexit negotiations and a worrying rise in the number of virus cases and tighter social distancing restrictions will all conspire to slow the recovery even further.”
Mel Stride, chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, called for a targeted extension of the furlough scheme.