London's Heathrow Airport does not expect to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic until 2026, with the international airport having lost $4.7 billion since the pandemic began.
As Reuters reported, the number of passengers in the third quarter of 2021 recovered to 28 percent of pre-pandemic levels at Heathrow, while cargo recovered to about 90 percent. The airport also warned on Tuesday that its operating costs would increase as it prepares for rising demand.
The airport has attempted to inhibit the effects of the pandemic by raising charges for airlines and asking the British government to remove testing rules for vaccinated passengers.
However, a British aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, said last week that it will not permit Heathrow to raise passenger charges by as much as it wanted, Reuters reported.
Heathrow said the regulator's proposal "do not go far enough" in order for its investors to receive a fair return and said it would respond by the end of the year. Heathrow's shareholders, like the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp., have had negative returns in real-term value over the past 15 years.
Despite these developments, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye expressed optimism about the airport's outlook.
"We are on the cusp of a recovery which will unleash pent-up demand, create new quality jobs and see Britain's trade roar back to life — but it risks a hard landing unless secured for the long-haul," Holland-Kaye said to Sky News.
"To do that, we need continued focus on the global vaccination programme so that borders can reopen without testing; we need a fair financial settlement from the CAA to sustain service and resilience after 15 years of negative real returns for investors; and we need a progressively increasing global mandate for sustainable aviation fuels so that we can protect the benefits of aviation in a world without carbon," he added.
Editor's note: The headline of this story was updated at 3:18 p.m. to reflect that Heathrow Airport does not expect a full recovery until 2026.