Last summer worst since 1975 for UK airports, CAA data reveals

A total of 14.2 million passengers passed through UK facilities from July to September, the lowest recorded since the mid-1970s

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released a set of data showing that the decline in passenger numbers at UK airports last summer was at its lowest level since 1975.

From July through to September last year, only 14.2 million passengers travelled through airports in the UK. These numbers align with figures seen during the same period in 1975 – when a total of 14.1 million people departed UK facilities.

Overall, passenger numbers plummeted by 75.5% for the entire year, to levels that had not been recorded since 1985. That year, around 70.1 million passengers travelled through UK airports, not dissimilar to the 73.8 million recorded in 2020. Last year’s passenger numbers were less than of quarter of what was recorded in 2019 (296.8 million).

Gatwick Airport
Photo Gatwick Airport

A year ago, the Chancellor addressed the aviation sector by highlighting the foreseeable challenges to come and promised to provide a necessary support package to keep the industry afloat.

Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association chief executive, believes that “he has been proven right about the challenges but has failed to deliver sufficient support”.

“The Chancellor’s failure to deliver on his promise has resulted in UK airports facing huge losses and trailing behind international competitors, who did receive significant support from their governments.”

The AOA says that despite having little to no support from the UK government, airports and airlines have been expected to continue with operations, by aiding services such as Royal Mail, air ambulances, coastguard and the national police as well as other critical services.

“The Global Travel Taskforce offers us a glimmer of hope for a safe and successful summer. To ensure there are viable airports to support the economy and government agendas like global Britain and levelling-up, it must deliver on PM’s promise of risk-based restart of aviation from May 17, through an affordable testing regime and with quarantine only as a measure of last resort,” Dee concludes.

The first three months of last year saw the most passenger activity, as almost two-thirds of the total travellers recorded in 2020 took a flight within this time frame. The remainder did so between the months of April and December, representing an 89.1% decline in passengers compared with 2019 levels.