Britain’s busiest airport is still less congested than in pre-pandemic times but plans to take measures to prevent Christmas travel chaos.

Demand for air travel remains below pre-pandemic 2019 levels, Heathrow Airport The number is expected to drop by a quarter from 2019, and for the whole of 2022 it will be between 60 and 62 million people.

The numbers will not return to 2019 levels for several years, the airport said in its financial results for the nine months ended September 30.

Over the summer, Heathrow handled 18 million passengers, more than any other European hub.

Airport managers blamed the headwinds of the global economic crisis for this war in Ukraine and impact COVID-19 for fewer passengers.

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

In order to increase passenger numbers and cope with peak demand, companies across the airport face the “enormous logistical challenge” of hiring and training 25,000 vetted staff.

The airport is working with the government to review airline ground handling and is setting up a task force to fill vacancies.

Heathrow also said it was working on a mechanism to avoid canceling peak-time flights over the Christmas period.

The current passenger cap, which limits departures to 100,000 a day, is due to be lifted on Saturday.

A “target mechanism” is agreed with the airlines., Heathrow said to prevent the chaos of travel and flight cancellation travelers experience in the summer.

A Heathrow spokesman said this would involve “re-timing” flights during a small window of days and moving some morning flights to quieter afternoon periods.

“But our discussions with the airlines are ongoing and it may be that these measures are not necessary at all. We won’t see flight cancellations like we did earlier in the summer,” they added.