Heathrow suffers £2billion loss in ‘toughest’ year as passenger footfall nosedives 73%

The number of people passing through the west London airport tumbled from 80.9 million in 2019 to 22.1 million last year - a level not seen since the 1970s - and more than half of those travelled before the COVID-19 crisis struck.  The group's mammoth loss last year compares with profits of £546 million in 2019.

This came despite the group's move to slash costs by nearly £400million, reduce spending by £700million and raise £2.5billion to help see it through the crisis.

Its cost-cutting action saw it slash its management team by about a third and around a quarter of frontline staff take voluntary redundancy.

Heathrow said it is now preparing for a "safe restart of travel" this year.

But bosses called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver measures to support the stricken sector in next week's Budget, making a plea for 100% business rates relief, an extension of the furlough scheme and to revive VAT-free shopping for tourists to the UK.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "2020 has been the toughest year by far in Heathrow's 75-year history."

But he added: "We can be hopeful for 2021, with Britain on the cusp of becoming the first country in the world to safely resume international travel and trade at scale.

"Getting aviation moving again will save thousands of jobs and reinvigorate the economy, and Heathrow will be working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a robust plan underpinned by science and backed by industry."

The news comes as Lloyds Banking Group saw profits tumble by 72% in 2020, as it battled with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Vaccine passports: Heathrow boss shares latest flights update

Net income dropped 16 per cent to £14.4billion across the financial year.

Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said: "Looking forward, significant uncertainties remain, specifically relating to the coronavirus pandemic and the speed and efficacy of the vaccination programme in the UK and around the world.

"I remain confident that the group's clear purpose, unique business model, significant competitive advantages and the customer-focused evolution of our strategy we have announced will ensure that the group is able to help Britain recover and, in so doing, help transition to a sustainable economy."

It is the last set of full-year results for Mr Horta-Osorio, before he is replaced by Charlie Nunn, the head of HSBC's high street banking unit.

The boss, who has led Lloyds for a decade, will become chief executive of Credit Suisse later this year.

Mr Nunn will take up the post in August, Lloyds confirmed on Wednesday alongside its results.

The board announced that it will be bringing back dividends, which were suspended at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, setting an ordinary payout of 0.57p per share, the maximum allowed under Prudential Regulation Authority guidelines.

Dan Lane, an analyst at investment platform Freetrade, said: "For context, that figure was 3.2p in 2018. Outgoing Horta-Osorio did say it was the maximum the bank was allowed to shell out at this stage in the recovery. With impairment charges of £4.2 billion set aside to deal with loans that could turn sour, maybe it's the astute thing to do right now.

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