Heathrow airport is preparing for its second-busiest December on record as air travel continues to approach pre-pandemic levels.

The west London airport said it expects 6.5 million passengers will travel through its terminals this month, with New York, Dubai and Delhi among the most popular Christmas routes.

That would be a 10% increase on the figure of 5.9 million in December 2022 and behind only 2019 (6.7 million) for Heathrow’s most passengers in the final month of a year.

Ballet dancers at Heathrow
The airport is hosting ballet performances in December (Matt Alexander/PA)

The airport’s recovery towards pre-coronavirus levels in recent months has been partly driven by a surge in the number of flights to and from Asia.

Passengers arriving at Terminal 5 on Tuesday were greeted by the sight of ballet dancers performing a piece named The Reunion choreographed by former Birmingham Royal Ballet first artist Ruth Brill.

Heathrow said the dance “aims to convey the huge sense of emotion and joy that many travellers feel when they finally touch down and are reunited with friends and family for the festive season”.

Repeat performances will take place at 2pm on December 12 and 22.

Ballet dancers at Terminal 5
Ballet dancers perform at Terminal 5 (Matt Alexander/PA)

Heathrow director of services Tonia Fielding said: “December at Heathrow is always a special time, with passengers jetting off to festivities with family and friends.

“And on the other hand, so many people choose this month to return to the UK to celebrate a long-awaited reunion.

“For all these passengers the Christmas journey starts at Heathrow, so we’re proud to give them a performance to remember by taking a much-loved Christmas tradition for many families – ballet – and using it to showcase these emotional reunions in a way that really does them justice.

“By working with the talented Ruth Brill, I think we’ve succeeded in conveying the magic of the Christmas period for every passenger – young or old, first-time flier or seasoned traveller.”

Ms Brill said: “It has been an honour to be tasked with telling the story of festive reconnections through dance.

“The message of loved ones being reunited at Christmas – and all the emotions that come along with it – is a strong one that moves many of us.”

Heathrow is also hosting local choir performances, visits from Father Christmas and festive arts and craft activities.