Heathrow is to recruit new staff and work with airlines to reduce check-in times, as part of plans to cope with high demand expected over the summer holidays.

The airport said that “Based on the strength of outbound leisure bookings being reported by airlines, peak days in the summer holidays could be very busy, at up to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels”, adding that additional pre-departure tests would make it “feel even busier at check-in”.

Heathrow warned that the expected demand was “higher than current airline, handler and airport capacity”, and said it planned to recruit 12,000 new staff to help it cope.

But the airport also said that it was “particularly concerned over Border Force’s ability to scale up to meet demand”.

Last month Heathrow said that it was forecasting a surge in outbound tourism over the summer, and expects to meet its target of 45.5 million passengers this year. The airport also plans to reopen its Terminal 4 by July this year.

Heathrow’s passenger numbers fall to lowest level since 1972

Despite this optimism on summer passenger number, traffic was still down nearly 50 per cent on pre-pandemic levels in February, with only 2.8 million passengers travelling through the airport, some 15 per cent below forecasts.

Heathrow warned that inbound leisure and business travel “remains suppressed by the testing and quarantine requirements that are still in place in nearly two-thirds of the markets we serve”, and added that “we also face headwinds from higher fuel prices, longer flight times to destinations impacted by airspace closures, concerns from US travellers over war in Europe and the likelihood of new ‘Variants of Concern’, which together create huge uncertainty over the passenger forecasts this year”.

Finally the airport called on the CAA “not to slash investment in capital projects or operating costs” when delivering its final decision on the H7 price control review, stating that it has “proposed a plan to invest in the things our passengers and airlines tell us are important, including a new baggage system for Terminal 2 and upgraded security scanners to enable passengers to keep their liquids and electronics inside their bags with less than a 2 per cent increase to overall ticket prices”.

Commenting on the news Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, said:

“Aviation’s recovery remains overshadowed by war and Covid uncertainty. But we need to ensure we are geared up to meet peak potential demand this summer and are relying on the CAA to make a fair financial settlement that incentivises investment to maintain passenger service and encourages airlines and Heathrow to work together to grow passenger numbers.”