The number of passengers traveling at UK airports fell by 223 million last year, a 75% annual drop as governments imposed travel bans and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 74 million people passed through UK airports in 2020, less than a quarter of the 297 million recorded in 2019, according to PA Media’s analysis on annual data from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said the figures demonstrated the virus’ devastating impact on aviation.
Cardiff Airport suffered the largest drop in passenger numbers at 86.7%, followed by Glasgow Prestwick at 85.8% and Exeter at 85.5%.
Southampton’s figure fell by 83.4%, London City by 82.3% and Leeds Bradford by 81.2%.
Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, saw a 72.7% drop, from 80.9 million passengers in 2019 to 22.1 million last year. The figures include all passengers who have traveled to UK airports except the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
Demand for air travel collapsed in March 2020 when the UK entered its first national lockdown, mirroring lockdowns elsewhere and forcing airlines around the world to tie up their planes.
Travel started to pick up in late summer and fall, but passenger numbers fell again in November after numerous restrictions were reimposed on the UK as it faced a second wave of the virus.
Karen Dee, Director General of AOA, said: âThese numbers expose the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on UK airports. With passengers falling by almost 90% between April and December 2020, the economic output of airports has been decimated and a significant number of jobs have been lost. “
She said the government’s “overly cautious” approach to reopening travel meant this summer would be “as bad, if not worse, than 2020”. UK airports will lose at least Â£ 2.6bn in additional revenue this summer, following a similar loss between April and September 2020, the AOA estimates.
Dee said: ‘This leaves UK airports lagging behind international competitors from the EU and the US, which have not only received much greater financial support from their governments, but are also now in a position to resume their operations. trips during the summer.
âTo ensure that there are viable airports to support the economy and government programs like Global Britain and level up, the government is now faced with the choice of restarting aviation in a meaningful way or upgrading in place a comprehensive package of support to compensate airports for the impact of government policy. “
Travelers to popular tourist destinations such as Spain, France and Portugal must self-quarantine and be tested upon returning to the UK. Portugal was added to the UK government’s green list of countries that do not require quarantine upon their return on May 17, but was moved back to the orange list three weeks later, angering and frustrating travelers, some of whom said they had lost hundreds of pounds as a result.
France announced last week that it would allow fully vaccinated travelers from the UK to enter the country with a negative Covid-19 test, without requiring the seven-day quarantine this still applies to unvaccinated visitors from Great Britain.