UK's second-largest airport Gatwick said today it would reopen its south terminal next month, as it expects demand to pick up this summer, with coronavirus travel curbs having eased.

The airport said a number of airlines will start returning to the south terminal from March 27.

The terminal shut down for nearly two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines including British Airways, Aer Lingus, Oslo-listed Norwegian Air and low-cost carriers Vueling, Wizz Air and Ryanair will operate from the terminal, while EasyJet will operate across south and north terminals.

Passenger numbers, particularly in international travel, are expected to pick up as virus-related restrictions have either been completely lifted or are being gradually eased in major economies.

Ryanair last week laid out expectations that pent-up demand could lead to record summer passenger numbers.

Still, the possibility of new variants poses a threat to a sustained rebound and Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate warned that it may take time for consumer confidence to fully recover.

Meanwhile, Britain's biggest airport Heathrow said it had a slow start to 2022 after Omicron fears ruined travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers.

But it added it was hopeful that outbound summer holidays could help offset the weakness.

Travel demand in January was weaker than expected, the airport to the west of London said in a statement, and over 56% down compared with pre-crisis levels in 2019, when Heathrow handled 80.9 million customers.

The airport, however, kept its forecast for the year unchanged of just over half of pre-pandemic levels, as bookings for summer holidays outside the UK were recovering even as tourism into the UK remained weak. h

The views echoed that of the world's largest holiday company TUI, which said earlier this week that British holidaymakers were leading a recovery in summer demand as testing rules and restrictions are lifted.

"After a tough Christmas, Omicron has continued to bite and this has been a weak start to the year," Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

"Today's removal of restrictions for vaccinated passengers in and out of the UK offers a ray of hope, but the Omicron hangover proves demand remains fragile," he added.