it will take years Heathrow to return to carrying as many passengers as there were before the pandemic, bosses revealed.

The UK’s largest airport is expected to handle between 60 and 62 million passengers this year.

This is a quarter less than in 2019 – the year before Covid-19 hit the global economy.

Airlines and airports faced major challenges this summer as they reopened after two years of lockdown.

We have lifted the summer restriction and are working with airlines and their ground handling services to reach full peak capacity as soon as possible

Canceled flights and long queues forced companies to take extraordinary measures. Heathrow has said it will only handle 100,000 passengers a day.

The passenger limit expires on October 31, but that won’t be enough to get the airport back to normal.

“The headwind of the global economic crisis, the war in Ukraine and the impact of Covid-19 means we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for a number of years, except at peak times,” the company said.

But there was also good news for business. It managed to turn a hefty loss of £1.4bn in the first three quarters of last year into a profit of £643m this year.

Over the same period, revenue rose 200% to £2.1bn.

Heathrow said it needed to restore its systems so they could meet peak demand. This will involve hiring 25,000 new staff, which is a “huge logistical challenge”.

There are also signs that ridership is improving. In September, 5.8 million passengers chose the airport, which is only 15% below the level of 2019 and the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Executive Director John Holland-Kay said: “We can be proud that everyone at Heathrow has come together to serve consumers this summer – ensuring 18 million people escape on their journeys, more than any other airport in Europeand the vast majority experience good service.

“We have lifted the summer restriction and are working with airlines and their ground services to return to full peak capacity as soon as possible.”