Another 6 million people travelled through Heathrow Airport last month, just barely below pre-pandemic levels, while Stansted broke its January passenger record, with little sign that fears about flight safety or geopolitical events were holding back travel.
The number of passengers at Heathrow was only about 100,000 short of the total recorded in January 2020, before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was up 9.4% from 2023.
Stansted, meanwhile, saw 1.95 million passengers, which was about 20,000 more than its previous record set in 2019.
Commentators warned last month concerns over the safety of Boeing jets and the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza could hit the aviation sector. The figures from the two London airports suggest the impact has been minimal so far though.
But Heathrow bosses warned the lack of VAT-free shopping for international travellers was continuing to hold the UK back. It has joined forces with the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses in an attempt to get Jeremy Hunt to reintroduce VAT-free shopping in next month’s Budget.
The airport said: “While exports are thriving, Britain has shut the door on home grown growth, turning away international shoppers through the tourist tax and tarnishing the UK’s reputation as a competitive country to spend and do business with.”
There were early signs last month that the aviation sector may have been impacted by concerns over the safety of Boeing jets, after a number of high-profile failings. However, it appears that this has not disssuaded passengers from flying through Heathrow.
CEO Thomas Woldbye said: “The year has got off to a strong start, retaining Heathrow’s crown as the best UK airport. We are ready for the first passenger peak of the year, with February half term fast approaching. Whether you are travelling to ski, soak up the sun, or visit friends and family, Heathrow has you covered.”
Stansted managing director Gareth Powell said: “I’m really pleased we were able to deliver yet another strong passenger performance last month, welcoming more passengers in a January than ever before at London Stansted, and coming hot on the heels of a record-breaking December.”