Passengers cashing in travel vouchers issued after trips were cancelled during the Covid pandemic have led Heathrow Airport to increase its passenger number forecast by 16 per cent for the year.
Five million passengers travelled through Heathrow during the busy Easter period in April.
The west London airport said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been boosted by outbound leisure travellers and a recovery in passenger demand, which is set to last throughout the summer.
As a result, Heathrow increased its 2022 passenger number forecast from 45.5 million to nearly 53 million.
The forecast means Heathrow expects passenger numbers to reach 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
This is a "realistic assessment", the airport insisted.
Airlines have accused Heathrow of playing down the recovery of demand as part of efforts to convince the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to allow it to raise fees further.
The regulator is in the final stages of setting a five-year cap on the airport's charges.
Despite passengers complaining of delays at the airport over Easter, Heathrow said 97 per cent of travellers passed through security within 10 minutes compared with three-hour queues at other UK airports. It confirmed that Terminal 4 will reopen by July and 1,000 new security staff taken on to keep queues to a minimum.
However, it said unpredictability remains the harsh reality for travel.
The airport said: "The ongoing war in Ukraine, higher fuel costs, continuing travel restrictions for key markets like the United States and the potential for a further variant of concern creates uncertainty.
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"Together with last week’s warning from the Bank of England that inflation is set to pass 10 per cent and that the UK economy will likely ‘slide into recession’, means we are taking a realistic assessment that travel demand will reach 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels overall for the year."
Heathrow expects to remain loss-making throughout this year and does not forecast paying any dividends to shareholders in 2022.
It called for the CAA to allow charges to increase to allow for reliable journeys "for less than a 2 per cent increase in ticket prices".
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “We all want to see travel get back to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible, and while I am encouraged by the rise in passenger numbers, we also have to be realistic. There are significant challenges ahead — the CAA can either plan for them with a robust and adaptable regulatory settlement that delivers for passengers and withstands any shocks, or it can prioritise airline profits by cutting back on passenger service, leaving the industry to scramble when things go wrong in future.”