Heathrow Sept passenger numbers at 38% of 2019 levels
Airport calls for scale up of sustainable aviation fuel production
London’s Heathrow airport on Monday said September passenger numbers hit 38% of pre-pandemic levels, as it called for the UK to expand the use of sustainable aviation fuels to cut carbon emissions.
Just 2.6m people travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 6.8m in September 2019. The fall was attributed to North American traffic slumping to a quarter of 2019 levels.
The US has been closed to UK visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, although the restriction is set to be lifted next month for travellers who are fully vaccinated.
Heathrow said rival airports in the European Union “enjoyed stronger resurgence over summer”.
An almost 8% reduction in cargo volumes in September compared with 2019 reflected how travel restrictions have been “damaging UK exports and supply chains” as well as passenger demand, it added.
Heathrow management called on the government to use the upcoming Cop26 climate conference to announce policies to increase the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the UK.
“We should aim for 2019 to have been the peak year for fossil fuel use in global aviation,” said the airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
“The UK government can show real leadership in decarbonising aviation at Cop26, by setting a progressively increasing mandate and a plan to use contracts for difference to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation fuel in the UK, which will protect the benefits of flying for future generations.”
SAF is produced with materials other than crude oil, and produces up to 80% fewer carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel.
Holland-Kaye wants to see a price support mechanism, such as contracts for difference (CFD), to underpin SAF prices.
CFDs, which are used in the renewable energy industry, set up a fixed price for generation over a period of time, providing suppliers with certainty on future revenue, which in turn helps them find financial backers.