London’s Heathrow airport has recorded the most number of passengers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but UK Covid-19 infection rates have kept business and inbound travellers away.

Demand surged last month after the UK government abolished restrictions on travelling, marking a significant improvement from the “very weak” start to the year, Heathrow said.

“Following a very weak January and February, passenger numbers in March were the highest since the start of the pandemic,” Heathrow said.

Demand was driven by “leisure at weekends” and travelling during the school holidays, as Britons enjoyed their regained freedom and many used vouchers from trips cancelled because of the pandemic.

“Inbound leisure and business travel remain weak due to high Covid-19 levels in the UK and the requirement to test before returning home,” it said.

Resources at the airport were “stretched”, it added. Heathrow expects a busy summer with passenger numbers close to those in 2019, spurring the airport to increase its resources “as fast as possible” with plans to add 12,000 new starters.

“It is fantastic to see the airport coming back to life after two years,” said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

But the airport cautioned that risks remained high because it was “unclear whether the surge in demand is sustainable”.

It said high fuel prices, potential new Covid-19 variants and the war in Ukraine posed potential threats in the medium term.

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