As Heathrow releases its August passenger data, the shape of the recovery curve is still resolutely L-shaped. A major factor in Heathrow's woes has been the 14 day quarantine for passengers arriving in the UK from countries with high infection rates, which has choked off much of the transatlantic and longhaul traffic.
Low cost carriers, who operate out of other London and regional airports, have been running more flights than Heathrow relatively speaking. But after a resurgence of COVID-19 in continental Europe and removal of "air corridors", they have had to cut back again on capacity.
What is worrying for the industry is that, while passenger traffic (which mainly drives revenue) is still down 82% at Heathrow, aircraft traffic movements (which mainly drives cost) are only down 64%. This picture is likely similar for other airports. Things are not being helped by the operational overheads being created by COVID-19 measures: Eurocontrol estimates that that many European airports could reach saturation point at just 65% of 2019 traffic levels. This would potentially cause devastating impacts on load factors and for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue streams.
Whilst more testing and an effective vaccine would help, it is ever clearer that it is going to take significantly longer than hoped to get close to 2019 passenger numbers. This supports a case for decisive action and creative ideas to adapt for the long haul.