Heathrow today accused the government of leaving the UK aviation sector “out in the cold” as it reported an 82% traffic slump to 1.2 million passengers.

The London hub, which has already been overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as Europe’s busiest airport, described the October as the eighth consecutive month of “catastrophic decline”.

November is likely to be even worse with the current lockdown travel ban, the airport warned.

Heathrow hit out at the government’s “debilitating” quarantine requirements for causing long-haul traffic to suffer the worst year-on-year declines.

“North America the UK’s biggest export market has been hardest hit by the downturn,” the airport said.

It added that the UK’s aviation industry “is essential to the supply chain of temperature-sensitive, time-critical goods like vaccines – 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical supplies are imported via Heathrow alone”.

Heathrow is offering rapid Covid-19 tests to passengers travelling to other countries, but these are not yet approved for UK arrivals.

“The lack of a testing regime has left British airports unable to compete with EU rivals, the refusal to offer English and Welsh airports business rates relief runs the risk of worsening an already challenging situation and the plans to end VAT-free shopping threatens to kick our industry when it’s down,” the airport added.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Aviation is the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, critical for exports of goods and services and imports of vaccines, as well as inbound tourism, students and foreign direct investment.

“Lack of government action is weakening our sector, making it harder for us to support the eventual economic recovery and help deliver the prime minister’s vision of a global Britain.”