Covid lockdowns and border closures led to a loss of 58.8 million passengers using Heathrow in 2020.

The number of travellers using the London hub fell 72.7% to 22.1 million over 2019 levels.

Passengers using Heathrow in December fell by almost 83% year-on-year to 1.1 million as the new strain of the virus took its toll on air travel.

Heathrow recorded a loss of 5.6 million passengers as many were forced to cancel Christmas and new year reunions in line with government guidance.

The airport said it was forced to radically reduce costs last year, while protecting front line roles, by consolidating operations into Terminals 2 and 5 and switching to single runway operations for most of the year.

“There has been no government support other than the national furlough scheme,” the airport said.

A Supreme Court ruling in December recognised the planning process that will require Heathrow to prove third runway expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin.

The government will soon require all international arrivals to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure, before travelling to England and Scotland after months of industry-wide calls for pre-departure testing.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said:The past year has been incredibly challenging for aviation.

“While we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.

“The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival.

“We need a road map out of this lockdown and a full waiver of business rates.

“This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership in creating a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing that will allow travel and trade to restart safely so that we can start to deliver the prime minister’s vision of a Global Britain.”