Heathrow Airport’s passenger numbers in January were narrowly below pre-pandemic levels.

The west London airport said it was used by 6.0 million passengers last month.

That compares with 6.1 million in January 2020.

The weight of cargo handled by the airport rose from 116,000 tonnes to 122,000 tonnes over the same period.

The airport claimed exporters are “thriving” but the UK has “shut the door on home-grown growth” by “turning away international shoppers through the tourist tax”.

Then-chancellor Rishi Sunak decided in 2020 to end a scheme enabling tourists to claim back the 20% VAT rate on goods bought in the UK.

Heathrow has joined with business groups the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses to call for a tax-free shopping incentive to be reintroduced at next month’s spring Budget.

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