Heathrow passenger numbers slump to lowest level since 1966 while Rolls-Royce announces £4billion loss after aviation industry suffers ‘severe’ Covid hit
- Heathrow’s passenger numbers have fallen to the lowest level since the 1960s
- Engine-maker Rolls-Royce has plummeted to a mammoth £4 billion annual loss
- Just 461,000 people travelled through Heathrow Airport in February
- Recent queue times in immigration halls have been ‘unacceptable’
Heathrow’s passenger numbers have fallen to the lowest level since the 1960s and Rolls-Royce has plummeted to a mammoth £4 billion annual loss after a ‘severe’ hit from the pandemic.
Just 461,000 people travelled through the west London airport in February – the lowest monthly total since 1966, and a 92% drop compared with February 2020.
The airport blamed the decrease on the ban on non-essential travel, quarantine rules and the requirement for pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus testing.
It said it is working with Boris Johnson’s taskforce to reopen international leisure travel from May 17, but warned that the ‘biggest single concern is the ability of Border Force to be able to cope with additional passenger numbers’.
Recent queue times in immigration halls of up to six hours have been ‘unacceptable’, it added.
Engine-maker Rolls-Royce’s eye-watering loss for last year was worse than expected and compares with underlying pre-tax profits of £583 million in 2019.
On a statutory basis, Rolls reported pre-tax losses of £2.9 billion against losses of £891 million in 2019.
Just 461,000 people travelled through the west London airport in February – the lowest monthly total since 1966, and a 92% drop compared with February 2020
Rolls said there had been a ‘severe impact of Covid-19 pandemic on group performance and near-term outlook’, warning 2021 was still uncertain for the firm and its sector.
But the group stood by its forecast for cash outflow – a closely-watched measure for the group – to improve in 2021.
Its cash outflow stood at £4.2 billion in 2020, but Rolls forecast this would improve this year to an outflow of around £2 billion and is set to turn positive at some stage during the second half.
Heathrow noted that its cargo volumes are 30% down on normal, while rival airports in Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are moving ‘pre-Covid cargo tonnage levels’.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘Aviation has always led the UK economy out of recession, and we will do so again.
‘The PM’s Global Travel Taskforce can lead the way on reopening international travel and trade safely – but ministers must get a grip of Border Force’s performance so that visitors get a warm welcome to Britain, not a six-hour queue.’
His comments come a day after the airport’s chief operating officer Emma Gilthorpe told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that passengers are facing queues of up to six hours because of the time coronavirus checks are taking to carry out.
She said it was ‘not uncommon to see queues of three hours and we have had queues extending out to nearly six hours on occasion’.
She added: ‘The extra layers that have been introduced are crippling the resourcing capability that Border Force has in place.’
Rolls-Royce has plummeted to a mammoth £4 billion annual loss after a ‘severe’ hit from the pandemic
Rolls-Royce said it had taken swift action to slash costs by an extra £1 billion amid aims to save a total of £1.3 billion by 2022, including 7,000 job losses in 2020.
A total of 9,000 job cuts are expected in total under the programme, with around two thirds going in the UK.
It has also raised £7.3 billion to survive the pandemic through tapping up shareholders and borrowing from the Bank of England, with plans to raise at least £2 billion from selling off some parts of the business.
Warren East, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, said: ‘We have taken decisive actions to enhance our financial resilience and permanently improve our operational efficiency, resulting in a regrettable, but unfortunately very necessary, reduction in the size of our workforce.
‘With the support of our stakeholders we successfully secured additional liquidity with a rights issue, bond issuance and further credit facilities put in place during the year.
‘We have made a good start on our programme of disposals and will continue with this in 2021.’
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