London’s Heathrow Airport anticipates ‘busiest’ summer to date

Click to play video: 'Heathrow Airport expecting its busiest ever summer. What does that mean for Canadians?'
Heathrow Airport expecting its busiest ever summer. What does that mean for Canadians?
WATCH - After surpassing passenger records in the first quarter of 2024, London’s Heathrow Airport is expecting its “busiest summer on record.” Naomi Barghiel reports. – Apr 27, 2024

London’s Heathrow Airport is expecting this summer will be its busiest to date after surpassing passenger records in the first quarter of 2024.

About 82.4 million passengers are projected to travel through the airport this year despite a looming workers strike, according to a news release Wednesday.

“The summer getaway is expected to be the busiest on record, and we have a robust operating plan in place to keep the airport running smoothly, even if unnecessary industrial action materialises,” it said.

Heathrow has already been seeing higher than typical traffic this year. About 18.5 million passengers travelled through the airport during the first quarter, which is more than the airport has ever seen before.

Heathrow says it is investing in itself as the U.K.’s “hub” airport by pouring £1 billion (C$1.71 billion) into a security overhaul along with a number of projects. It includes installing 146 new lanes across the airport, replacing the baggage system in Terminal 2 with upgraded systems and a “once-in-a-decade” job resurfacing its two runways.

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“It has been a successful start to the year thanks to colleagues delivering a consistent, reliable service to our passengers,” Heathrow CFO Javier Echave said in the release.

“On the horizon is Heathrow’s busiest summer yet with more passengers and destinations served than ever before. We’re ready to continue delivering.”

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Heathrow is the largest airport in the United Kingdom and has some of the highest numbers of connecting destinations for travellers.

Heathrow’s latest release comes after the airport announced plans to outsource hundreds of roles by June 1 to reduce costs. The move has led Unite, the union representing hundreds of workers at the airport, to plan to take part in a strike from May 7 to 13.

The union says Heathrow will face “major disruption.”

“Strike action will inevitably cause widespread disruption across the airport, leading to delays and disruption. However, this is a dispute that HAL has brought on itself,” Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said in a press release Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'Heathrow Airport in London puts limit on how many people can depart'
Heathrow Airport in London puts limit on how many people can depart

The union called Heathrow’s actions “deplorable,” noting that the airport is “incredibly financially wealthy” having made more profit in 2023 than it did before the pandemic.

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Unite says Heathrow has refused to enter into negotiations about alternatives to outsourcing workers, which the union says would save the airport £40 million (C$68 million).

The airport reported pre-tax profits of £701 million (C$1.19 billion) in 2023, Unite notes.

It says the major reduction in workers raises “serious security concerns, given the safety critical nature of much of the work undertaken.”

A spokesperson for Heathrow has said there are “no job losses” as a result of the planned changes.

“We continue to discuss with Unite the implementation of these changes for the small number of colleagues impacted. To confirm, we have robust contingency plans in place for each of these individual areas and anticipate no impact on passenger journey,” the spokesperson said.

The anticipated busy 2024 summer season won’t be a first for Heathrow. The airport struggled to deal with booming demand in recent years as COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed.

Heathrow imposed a limit on the daily number of departing passengers during peak travel season in the summer of 2022, saying the expected passenger traffic was more than airport ground staff could handle.

The 100,000 daily passenger cap was lifted on Oct. 29 that year after demand simmered down.

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–with files from Reuters

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