Passenger numbers for Luton airport down 74 per cent on same period last year

Passenger numbers are down at Luton airport amid the coronavirus. Picture: Luton Airport

Passenger numbers are down at Luton airport amid the coronavirus. Picture: Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

Passenger numbers for London Luton Airport dropped by 74 per cent in July compared to the same month in 2019.

Luton Luton Airport chief executive Alberto Martin.

Luton Luton Airport chief executive Alberto Martin. - Credit: Archant

Should these figures continue to dwindle, we once again ask the question – how viable is an airport expansion?

According to Luton Airport, it has the strongest recovery of any major airport in the UK – but passenger numbers remain 74 per cent lower compared to the same period last year.

While this represents a significant increase on the previous month, the figures show that coronavirus is continuing to have a dramatic impact on the aviation industry. Passenger numbers are expected to increase significantly in August, but will remain at dramatically low levels compared to previous years.

As the airport welcomed more passengers throughout July, retail partners at the airport also reopened, including Wasabi, Starbucks, Sunglass Hut and Benugo.

More businesses at the airport are due to open throughout August, including the Aspire Lounge which opened its doors this week following an extensive re-fit which was delayed by the pandemic.

The recently formed easyJet Holidays welcomed its first customers on August 1 while Wizz Air continues to expand its operation at LLA, currently flying to 58 destinations with more than a dozen new routes launching this summer.

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Alberto Martin, CEO of LLA, said: “Seeing an increasing number of passengers passing through the airport safely is a rich reward for all the hard work and effort our teams have put in on the ground during this incredibly difficult period. While we’re delighted to see more passengers passing through the airport, we are still a long way from normal.

“Over the next couple of months government assistance is going to be key. From providing passengers the reassurance they need to be able to take a long-awaited holiday to helping the sector and those who work in it play an essential role supporting the UK’s economic recovery.”

Andrew Lambourne of LADACAN, a local community group fighting aircraft noise, said: “The number of flights last month compared to July 2019 was only down by about 55 per cent, and people have really noticed how invasive the aircraft noise is after a period of relative quiet.

“While the airspace has been less busy, noisy planes have been routed directly over residential areas far more often, which has caused additional complaints. The airport has grown too quickly and failed to deliver mitigations for noise because airspace redesign is hopelessly overdue, its latest ‘less noisy’ planes are often just as loud, and it fails to recognise the heavy impact its emissions have on climate change.

“Aviation needs to find a better and more sustainable way forward post-COVID, not just more of the same.”

Luton council recently announced a shift in focus for its expansion plans to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 sitaution, as well as to focus on creating a greener model.

As a result, the submission of The Development Consent Order application – which would outline the airports plans, and need to be accepted – has been postponed until next year. The expansion of the airport would see the number of passengers increase from 18 to 32 million per year.

Harpenden Skies campaigner Neil MacArthur added: “The key factor about such a dramatic Luton Airport reduction in passenger numbers is that the business case for expansion must now be completely reworked by Luton Borough Council once some form of stability has returned and that will be 2022 or longer, as there must be a solid foundation for the extensive funds required.

“This business case must include the LBC promise for the airport to become “the most sustainable & socially conscious airport in the UK”. The airlines EasyJet & Wizzair.”

Ciaran Scanlon, programme delivery director for LLAL, said: “It is encouraging to see passengers returning to Luton Airport in greater numbers than at any other major UK airport, and associated businesses reopening and bringing people back into work. The airport is a crucial part of the local, regional and national recovery in the short and longer term, and restoring jobs and opportunities has never been more necessary.

“After considering responses to a second public consultation late last year, we are taking a fresh look at every aspect of the impacts of running an airport, and actively considering how we can set out a path that would make Luton one of the most sustainable as well as the most socially conscious airport in the UK.”