to eat today warned that it needs to hire 25,000 more employees airport if it has a chance to handle the expected levels passengers on the busiest days.

A statement of results for the first nine months of the year said more than 18 million passengers used Heathrow over the summer – more than any other European hub – as people returned to international travel after two years of Covid blocking and restrictions.

But it said the 400 businesses that use Heathrow face a “major logistical challenge” to recruit the security-cleared staff needed for the airport to meet peak-time demand.

Airport employers have struggled to find the right amount of staff, such as baggage handlers, after the pandemic travel restrictions were canceled due to Brexit and competition from other companies paying more. Before the pandemic, about 75,000 people worked at the airport.

Heathrow has set up a “recruitment task force to help fill the vacancies, working closely with the government to review airline ground handling and appointing a senior operational manager to invest in joint working”.

The flight restriction imposed to control capacity is due to be lifted on Sunday. But the airport said it was working with airlines on a new “mechanism designed to prevent further chaos at the airport in the peak days leading up to Christmas”.

The company added: “This would encourage demand during less busy periods, protecting heavier peaks and avoiding flight cancellations due to lack of resources.”

Total passengers are expected to reach 60-62 million this year, about a quarter less than in 2019. The airport said that “the headwinds of the global economic crisis, the war in Ukraine and the effects of COVID-19 mean that we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years, except at peak times.”

The airport remained in the red for the first nine months of the year, although losses are narrowing as passenger numbers recover. A loss of £442m compared to a deficit of more than £1bn in the same period last year. Revenues tripled to £2.02 billion.

The company said: “Our balance sheet remains strong despite the losses. Our core losses have widened to £0.4bn since the start of the year as regulated profits fall short of costs, adding to £4bn in the previous two years. We have acted responsibly in the face of an uncertain market to protect liquidity and cash flow and reduce debt. We do not predict dividends this year.”

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We have lifted the summer cap and are working with the airlines and their groundhandlers to return to full peak capacity as soon as possible. Looking ahead, we encourage the CAA to think again about incentivizing long-term investment that will deliver the most consumer value through smooth and predictable travel, rather than focusing on short-term pricing that we see only benefiting airline profits. »