Heathrow’s 2022 traffic ended at 76.6 per cent of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, with a total of 61.6 million passengers using the airport across the year.

The figure was also 42.2 million higher than in 2021, which the airport said made it the highest passenger increase of any airport in Europe.

More than 5.9 million travellers passed through the airport in December – up 90 per cent on the same period in 2021 – with New York JFK being the busiest route.

Heathrow said that 92 per cent of travellers passed through the security in under ten minutes during the Christmas peak, despite industrial action by UK Border Force.

CEO John Holland-Kaye said that “2022 ended on a high with our busiest Christmas in three years and a smooth and efficient service for passengers, thanks to the hard work of our colleagues and close planning with airlines, their ground handlers and Border Force”.

The London hub said that it remained “concerned that the recovery of the aviation sector, which is critical to the economy, could be set back by the reintroduction of testing for travellers in the UK and elsewhere in response to increasing Covid levels in China, even though governments acknowledge there is no scientific basis for doing so”.

In its airport charges consultation document published in August last year Heathrow forecast passenger numbers of around 65.2 million for 2023, although Virgin Atlantic said this was a “pessimistic” figure, adding that the airport had “a poor track record of forecasting, having projected just 45 million annual passengers for 2022”.

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