Heathrow loosing top position after 73% traffic collapse

London Heathrow lost its top spot among European airports last year, as travel curbs tied to the coronavirus pandemic kept passengers away.

Istanbul’s new hub, completed in spring 2019, processed 23.4 million passengers in its first full calendar year of operation, edging past Heathrow, where traffic collapsed by 73%.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle, the second-busiest airport in Europe during 2019, stood slightly ahead of its London rival as of the first 11 months of 2020. It reports its full-year data later Monday.

The virus outbreak and the resulting travel restrictions have battered European airlines since March. A push to replace country-specific entry curbs with pre-flight testing has unravelled with the rise of more-infectious strains in the U.K. and elsewhere.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle takes 3th spot as largest EU airport

Britain’s quarantine mandate and a shifting list of exempted countries have also discouraged travel to London. The government last week tightened further, halting all flights from South America and extending the self-isolation requirement to arrivals from all countries.

While most Western European airports — from Frankfurt to Amsterdam to Barcelona — saw traffic sink 70% or more last year, Istanbul’s two biggest hubs and Moscow Sheremetyevo reported smaller declines, thus rising in the ranks.

New lockdowns mean travel will remain difficult for some time. Italy extended its state of emergency into April, while Austria’s will run into February, with Germany set to follow suit.

Starting Monday, travellers coming into France from outside of the EU will have to be tested prior to boarding, agree to self-isolate for a week upon arrival and then take another test.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P._RichardWeiss

Photo: Turkey Photo / Shutterstock.com