Heathrow ups full-year passenger growth outlook after record start to 2024

Heathrow Airport has swung to a first quarter profit and upped its outlook for full-year passenger growth after notching up its busiest start to the year.

The group posted pre-tax profits of £189 million for the three months to March 31 – traditionally a quiet season for the sector – against losses of £60 million a year ago.

It said the group enjoyed a record-breaking quarter, with passenger numbers up 9.5% to 18.5 million.

Heathrow lifted its outlook for full-year passenger numbers as it expects the busiest ever summer holiday season in 2024, with 82.4 million people now expected to pass through the airport.

The group insisted it had a “robust operating plan in place to keep the airport running smoothly” as it faces the threat of “unnecessary industrial action”.

Trade union Unite said earlier this week that hundreds of workers at Heathrow Airport will strike in a dispute over outsourcing of jobs.

Unite said around 800 of its members will launch a week of strikes from May 7-13.

The union said workers in passenger services – who assist travellers to catch connecting flights, trolley operations, and security guards will have their jobs outsourced by June.

Heathrow has said there would be no job losses due to the overhaul of operations and was continuing talks with Unite over those affected by the move.

In its latest update, the group also urged the Government to “rethink anti-growth” policies, such as the tourist tax.

It said the move to scrap VAT-free shopping for tourists serves to “discourage international visitors from spending in the UK”, adding that “unnecessary” travel visas for transiting passengers “risk the UK’s global connectivity and Heathrow’s hub status”.

“A supportive policy environment for aviation would deliver a much-needed economic boost by encouraging people to visit, spend and do business here in the UK,” it added.

The group also announced some boardroom changes, with chief financial officer Javier Echave set to become chief operating officer on April 26 April, and chief commercial officer Ross Baker taking on the role of chief customer officer on May 1.

Mr Echave said: “As I close the chapter on eight years as CFO, I’m proud that Heathrow is on a strong financial footing with a clear flightpath ahead.

“On the horizon is Heathrow’s busiest summer yet with more passengers and destinations served than ever before.

“We’re ready to continue delivering.”