For the first time in its history, London Heathrow Airport has fallen out of grace and is nowhere close to the top 30 busiest airport in the world.
The figures which showed that just 91,400 passenger flights touched down at the west London hub last year, down 61 per cent on 2019, according to data from aviation analysts Cirium.
That sent it tumbling down the global league table of airports, as ranked by passenger aircraft arrivals, from ninth to 31st.
Heathrow for decades has been one of the world’s top 10 busiest hubs and one of the most famous names in world aviation, below “second tier” regional US airports such as Salt Lake City and Orlando.
The data is the latest evidence of how Britain’s foremost airport has been humbled by the collapse in international travel during the pandemic.
The list is now dominated by US and Chinese airports that rely heavily on domestic rather than international travel.
The busiest airport in the world last year was Atlanta, with 259,700 arriving passenger flights, down only 40 per cent, followed by Dallas, with 235,100 arrivals, down 30 per cent.
Seven of the top 10 were American airports and three were Chinese, led by Guangzhou in sixth place.
However, Heathrow held on to its place as second busiest European airport, behind Amsterdam Schiphol which had 100,900 arrivals.
The data comes days before an expected announcement on fresh rules for passengers arriving in the UK that could include proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye has repeatedly warned about the damage being caused to the airport and the UK aviation sector by the restrictions on international travel imposed by the Government since the summer but ministers have insisted they are necessary to reduce the risk of infection by passengers arriving from abroad.
A Heathrow spokesperson, said: “The UK’s aviation sector has effectively been grounded three times in the past year, damaging the national economy and jeopardising jobs.
“The Prime Minister’s vision of a Global Britain hangs in the balance and he needs to take urgent action to make good on his promises now that we have left the EU. The UK needs to take a lead on establishing a common international standard for pre-departure testing and put in place steps that will allow for the safe reopening of borders as soon as this lockdown ends.”
Cirium chief executive Jeremy Bowen said: “The crisis caused a significant reduction in global flight volumes with airlines operating 49 per cent fewer flights in 2020 than in 2019.
“However, China is least affected — only 24 per cent down verses 2019 — and Chinese airlines and airports either moved up or into the global top 10 airlines and airport groups.”