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Here's the tea: London's Heathrow has lost its crown as the busiest airport in Europe to Paris' Charles de Gaulle.

The announcement was made yesterday, tweed hat in hand, by Heathrow's CEO.

Launch Pad
Traffic at Heathrow has been losing ground to other airports in Europe for years, a trend which has only accelerated during the pandemic.

For the nine months ending in September, de Gaulle served 19.3 million passengers vs. Heathrow's 19 million, the first time in history CDG has come out on top.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye warned Britain is “falling behind” other European countries because, he claims, it has been slow to introduce coronavirus testing at airports.

Holland-Kaye (who might be more comfortable working at Amsterdam's airport) told the FT, “We are just going to be taken to the cleaners by the French and other European countries."

Why It Matters
For Investors: Unlike in the U.S. where many airports are publicly run, many European and Asian airports are privately held.

Heathrow, for instance, is owned by a consortium of infrastructure funds including Spain's Ferrovial and the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar and China. Charles de Gaulle is owned by a publicly-traded company, fittingly named "Aéroports de Paris."

For Britain: Heathrow’s passenger numbers this year would be the lowest since the early 1970s. Holland-Kaye has fought to build a third runway to become more competitive, but efforts have been put on hold due to concerns over climate change.

Last Word: Holland-Kaye said, "If we don’t (build a third runway) we will be flying through Paris to get to global markets... that is not global Britain... that is little Britain."

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