Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Saudi Snaps Up 10% Ownership of London Heathrow Airport

5 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will acquire a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe. Saudi is buying the share off of Ferrovial of Spain, while Paris-based Ardian will acquire 15 percent in a deal worth £2.37 billion ($3 billion) The deal is being made by the Public Investment Fund, known as PIF, which is chaired by the kingdom’s crown prince.

Ferrovial has owned its stake since 2006. The new deal is still subject to regulatory conditions

Heathrow’s parent company TGP Topco has various different owners, including other sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. Here’s what the ownership looks like:

  • Qatar Investment Authority: 20%
  • Ardian: 15%
  • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec: 13%
  • GIC: 11%
  • Australian Retirement Trust: 11%
  • PIF: 10%
  • China Investment Corporation: 10%
  • Universities Superannuation Scheme: 10%

Heathrow regained its top spot as the busiest airport in western Europe last year, after sliding down the rankings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of passengers at the London airport has been on the rise. Between January and the end of September, Heathrow’s terminals saw 59.4 million passengers, an increase from 44.2 million during the same period in 2022.

This year, the airport has been experiencing financial losses due to substantial debt, influenced by sharp increases in borrowing costs. Losses in the first nine months of this year were £19 million (approximately $24.1 million), down from £442 million (approximately $561.5 million) in the same period in 2022.

The airport still has more than £14 billion (approximately $17.7 billion) in debt.


IDEAS: Heathrow Trials Pre-Booked Security Slots

7 months ago

Heathrow has announced that it is trialing an initiative that allows passengers travelling through the airport to pre-book their security slots ahead of their journeys.

Credit: Heathrow

It is hoped that the service, known as ‘Heathrow Timeslot‘, will offer travellers more peace of mind when moving through the airport as well as helping to reduce queue times.

Currently live in Terminal 3, the trial is set to run for the next six months and will be open to passengers travelling with American Airlines, Delta, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic.

“Everyone is familiar with airport security, but at Heathrow we’re constantly thinking of innovative ways to boost the safety and streamline the experience for our passengers. This new trial will give passengers that extra added bit of certainty and reassurance ahead of their journey and we think it will be particularly popular for those with families or nervous travellers who may want a bit more confidence in their journeys. We look forward to seeing the data come in to give us some learnings on how we can roll this out more widely across Heathrow,” said Mark Powell, operational planning director at Heathrow.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


Airplane Wastewater Study Reveals UK Travel Restrictions Didn’t Halt Covid Spread

1 year ago

A laboratory study has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the UK’s travel restrictions last year.

Scientists at Bangor University in Wales tested wastewater on planes to monitor coronavirus infections and the general health of passengers coming into the UK from other countries.

Almost all aircraft arriving at the three monitored UK airports (Heathrow, Edinburgh and Bristol) between March 8 and March 31, 2022 had the virus in their wastewater, according to the study, published in medical journal PLOS Global Public Health.

“Despite all the intervention measures that the UK had in place to try to stop people with the illness getting on flights to the UK, almost every single plane we tested contained the virus, and most of the terminal sewers, too,” said professor David Jones of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, reported Lab Manager.

“That might have been because people developed symptoms after testing negative, or were evading the system, or for some other reason. But it showed that there was essentially a failure of border control in terms of Covid surveillance.”

Wastewater sampling has been cited as a better method to monitor travelers coming from China, rather than requiring negative pre-departure Covid tests. Airports Council International Europe has argued this can shift the focus to genomic sequencing to identify new variants.

The British government spent around $585 million on implementing a traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons review in July last year found that it was unable to tell if it worked, or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.

A review into Canada’s travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic also claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Bangor University helped track the spread of Covid in early 2020 by testing wastewater in major cities. Scientists at the university hope wastewater sampling will extend beyond coronavirus, allowing the UK government to establish an “infectious disease transmission surveillance network” for any future viruses, Lab Manager also reported.