Heathrow to reopen Terminal 4 in July as 53 million expected to book flights

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Heathrow  Passengers queue for airport check-in ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, at Heathrow Airport, in London, Britain, April 14, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Heathrow said the recovery in passenger demand was driven by 'outbound leisure travellers and Brits cashing in airline travel vouchers'. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

London's Heathrow airport has said it will reopen Terminal 4 by July and is already recruiting up to 1,000 new security officers.

Heathrow increased its 2022 passenger number forecast from 45.5 million to nearly 53 million as it warned of “significant challenges” ahead.

The London hub said outbound leisure travellers and people cashing in airline vouchers obtained for trips cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic are driving the recovery in demand.

This 16% rise in expected travellers follows a “strong” April, with 5.1 million people using the west London airport.

In what it said was a “realistic assessment”, Heathrow expects passenger numbers to reach 65% of pre-pandemic levels this year.

It still expects to remain lossmaking throughout this year.

The airport cautioned that the war in Ukraine, higher fuel costs and cost of living squeeze “creates uncertainty going forward.”

Read more: Heathrow airport drops mandatory face masks rule

“The ongoing war in Ukraine, higher fuel costs, continuing travel restrictions for key markets like the United States and the potential for a further variant of concern creates uncertainty going forward.

“Together with last week’s warning from the Bank of England that inflation is set to pass 10% and that the UK economy will likely ‘slide into recession’ means we are taking a realistic assessment that travel demand will reach 65% of pre-pandemic levels overall for the year,” the London airport said in a statement.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye added: “We all want to see travel get back to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible, and, while I am encouraged by the rise in passenger numbers, we also have to be realistic.

“There are significant challenges ahead. The regulator can either plan for them with a robust and adaptable regulatory settlement that delivers for passengers and withstands any shocks, or they can prioritise airline profits by cutting back on passenger service, leaving the industry to scramble when things go wrong in future.”

Read more: Heathrow records lowest passenger numbers in 50 years

Airlines have accused Heathrow of playing down the recovery of demand as part of efforts to convince the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to allow it to raise fees further.

The regulator is in the final stages of setting a five-year cap on the airport’s charges.

Heathrow does not forecast paying dividends to shareholders in 2022.

Watch: Customers face travel chaos at UK airports as staff shortages take toll