Heathrow to shut Terminal 4 till end of 2021 as passenger numbers drop 88%

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Passengers wear face masks as they arrive with their lugage at Terminal 4 of London Heathrow Airport in London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Passengers wear face masks as they arrive with their lugage at Terminal 4 of London Heathrow Airport in London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Heathrow airport on Friday announced that it will keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of next year as COVID-19 continues to affect travel.

Passenger numbers at the airport fell by 88% in November as travel restrictions and England’s second COVID-19 lockdown took their toll.

Cargo flights were also down. Based on current forecasts and a continued decline in passengers, Heathrow has decided that Terminal 4 will remain non-operational until the end of 2021.

Terminal 4 was closed during the first national lockdown. The decision saw airlines such as KLM, Air France (AF.PA) and Etihad move to Terminal 2.

The latest announcement, adds to the mountain of woes the airport is facing due to pandemic, including losses of £1.5bn ($2bn) in 2020.

Rolls-Royce (RR.L), which make engines for commercial planes, similarly said it expects air travel to "recover slowly" in the first six months of 2021 before an improvement in the second half as more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The engine group said that in the 11 months to November, the number of flying hours recorded on its large jet engines was 42% of last year's total. It said that the “pace of recovery slowed due to the second wave of infections in some geographies.”

In October and November, the number of recorded flying hours on Rolls-Royce commercial jet engines was 33% compared to last year.

It comes after, the UK government added popular tourist destination the Canary Islands to the quarantine list on Thursday. From early Saturday morning, people returning to Britain from the islands will have to self-isolate.

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Additionally, up to 2,000 retails jobs could also go at Britain’s busiest airport due to the government’s decision not to offer tax-free shopping for tourists, according to Heathrow’s chief executive.

A levy on international visitors would make the UK the only country in Europe to have impose such a tax.

Heathrow’s chief exec, John Holland-Kaye said the tourist tax could be the “final nail in the coffin” for many struggling businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors.

Holland-Kaye said: “2021 should be the year of Britain’s economic recovery but recent announcements, such as the tourist tax, could be the final nail in the coffin for struggling businesses such as restaurants, hotels and theatres that rely on inbound tourists, as well as for retailers.”

He also called for government support for the industry including full business rates relief for all UK airports and abandoning the “tourist tax.”

“To make Global Britain a reality, the government should be helping the aviation sector to survive, to develop routes to our key trading partners and attract businesses and tourists to come to Britain to spend their money,” Holland-Kaye said.

Earlier this month, Heathrow announced it was planning to charge drivers £5 ($6.75) to drop off passengers outside its terminals, as it battles to survive the crisis facing global aviation.

Heathrow chiefs defended the move as a fundraising measure to save jobs, as well as encouraging passengers to use public transport.

The airport has teamed up with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines (AAL) and United Airlines (UAL) on a cross-industry study aimed at eradicating the need for quarantine for passengers. The research aims to prove the effectiveness of pre-departure testing in reducing transmission while making free movement easier.

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