Heathrow passenger numbers nearly tripled last month to 3 million

Heathrow passenger numbers nearly tripled last month with 3 million passengers compared to 1.2m in 2020 – but were still 56% down on pre-pandemic levels

  • 3million passengers flew out of Heathrow in October – first time since lockdown  
  • Passengers plunged 90 percent below pre-pandemic levels but are now rising
  • In October 2019, Heathrow had marked a record high of over 7million travellers 
  • Chief executive has urged to government to invest in sustainable aviation fuel 

Passengers flying from Heathrow Airport have more than doubled compared to this time last year, figures have revealed.

An estimated 3million travellers flew out of the west London airport last month compared with 1.2 million in October 2020 but passenger numbers remain down by 56 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

It is the first time Heathrow has reached over 3million passengers since March 2020, when the country entered its first lockdown.

On October 2019, passenger numbers at the London hub were at a record high of nearly 7million.

Relaxed rules for travellers have helped the airport slowly recover from a difficult year, which saw passengers number fall by up to 90 percent in the months before June. 

Passengers arriving arriving at Heathrow Airport yesterday faced queues of up to two hours after problems with national ‘egate’ outage at border control. Similar problems were reported at Luton and Stansted Airports.

Passengers at Heathrow in July, where there were complaints of long waits at queues 


Travellers from any country are permitted entry to the US if they are;

1) Fully vaccinated

2) Have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of arriving in the US 

Who is exempt from having to be vaccinated?


Under-18s do not need to be vaccinated but those over the age of two must have a negative test taken within 3 days of arrival

Children under two do not need to be vaccinated or have a negative test

Exempted countries

A limited number of travelers from countries where vaccination is less than 10 percent can enter but they have to get vaccinated if they’re still in America within 60 days

The countries include; Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Armenia, Myanmar, Iraq, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uganda, Libya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Haiti, Chad and Madagascar 

By August, this drop had reduced considerably as the airport recorded a milestone of well over 2million travellers. 

The London hub was Europe’s busiest runway before Covid-19 and has reported losses of £500million this summer. 

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, has urged to government to step up its commitments to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The airport has suggested this should be done by ensuring price stability to promote use of SAF and requiring airlines to use SAF for 10% of their fuel by the end of the decade.

Mr Holland-Kaye has listed ‘carbon’ as the airport’s biggest challenge, as consumers become increasingly aware of the impact of climate change across the globe.

He said: ‘As the journey to recovery accelerates, aviation’s ambitions to decarbonise must keep pace.

‘We need to keep our foot to the pedal, working to make air travel guilt-free and Government must act with a mandate for 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030 and a price stability mechanism to upscale SAF usage, if we are to tackle the industry’s biggest challenge – carbon.’ 

SAF is produced with materials other than crude oil, and produces up to 80% less carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel.

Relaxation of travel rules ahead of half-term ‘unleashed pent up demand’, Heathrow said. 

A traffic light system made of green, amber and red list countries was scrapped on October 4 and replaced with a simpler system of red list countries. All countries were removed from the red list on October 28. 

On November 8, the US finally opened its doors to foreign travellers for the first time since March 12, 2020, on a day which saw 10,000 passengers fly from London to New York. 

They were among the first to enter the US along with visitors from China, India and Brazil.

In the UK, passengers arriving from other countries must be fully vaccinated or have taken a pre-departure test before boarding a UK-bound flight.

 Upon arrival, foreign travellers must take a lateral flow test on or before the second day after their arrival.

Heathrow has urged ministers to ‘reassess’ the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK.

The airport has noted that while its passenger levels remain 56% down on pre-pandemic levels, air travel is recovering quicker for its European rivals.

Now without a hitch: America opens its doors to foreign travellers 

There was jubilation after America finally opened its doors to foreign travellers on November 8 after 20 long months.

British Airways operated 26 flights to the US on that day alone, including six to Heathrow to JFK, bringing 8,600 passengers who were previously banned.

Virgin carried 10 flights to the US from the UK on November 8, carrying 4,500 people, while Delta operated three from the UK to land at Detroit, Atlanta and JFK.

But hundreds of passengers were left waiting for hours at JFK airport when three planes from Manchester reportedly arrived at once.

JFK faced fury on social media from travellers stuck in huge queues due to an apparent mix up with flights.

A twitter user wrote: ’20 months closed lots of time to get things right and JFK Airport queues are a disgrace, three planes landing at the same time from Manchester is ridiculous.’

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