Heathrow – Pre-lockdown Ghost Town

Seeing is believing. In Heathrow Airport’s case, with the continuation of all things COVID, the picture of desertion at the airport is like the Mary Celeste.

Empty, ghostlike and for those of us who love to travel, utterly disheartening.

On the basis that the latest Government lockdown starts on 04.11.20 and in the spirit of Halloween & Day of the Dead, last Saturday I decided to travel from our Nomadic Thoughts office (Queens Park, London NW6) to Heathrow Airport, recording the journey and airport situation as I went.

The result was that even though we have become familiar with a relatively empty capital city, I was genuinely taken aback at how desolate both the connecting transport system and airport were.

As these photos show, the journey to and around Heathrow mirrors the total cessation in global travel presently. With cliff edge drop off in train and airport traveller numbers.

Fittingly reindorsed by the World Travel & Tourism Council’s latest pandemic projection of up to 174 million global job losses, Heathrow’s demise is emphasised by all flights now only operating out of Terminals 2 and 5 (with Terminals 3 and 4 closed).

Furthermore, this week saw Heathrow lose it title of Europe’s busiest airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle which, on the face of activity that I saw, is no surprise. Previous peak August passenger reductions of over 80% are continuing through into the autumn and winter periods.

Boris Johnson recently acknowledged that aviation is “having a terrible time”, but the government has yet to adequately address this. We still require an appropriate UK airports test & trace system, rationalised quarantine system and suitable lifting of blanket FCO advisory against ‘non-essential travel’.

The case in point being, that since March the FCO Advice only exempts destinations that “do not pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers”, which, for the vast majority of long-haul destinations that have a lower COVID-19 case load than the UK, includes almost every country in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Whilst the hope is that Heathrow’s future as the UK’s largest hub is bright, having previously handled 80.8 million passengers in 2019 and been recorded as the 2nd busiest airport in the world by international passengers, the present scenario remains utterly bleak.

12 replies
  1. Natalie Black says:

    Jono these photos could be “staged” images to depict exactly what you captured, a world where zero travel is happening. A world where time has stopped! Each one telling its own story though, one of sadness and emptiness. Very thought provoking.

  2. Mike Goldwater says:

    Great pix. Very thought provoking. Quite disturbing to say the least. Keep well, keep safe, keep fighting…

  3. Jono Vernon-Powell says:

    Yes, I wanted to record how desperate the situation is. However, I was genuinely taken aback at how uttetly deserted trains & airport were.

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