Heathrow Airport
Heathrow announced record passenger numbers in the first three months of the year Getty

Heathrow announced record passenger numbers in the first three months of the year, adding it expects to upgrade full-year forecasts.

Britain's largest airport said it was set for its "best ever year" as pre-tax profit jumped 17.4% to £27m in the quarter to the end of March compared to a year ago.

The five-terminal hub saw passenger numbers rise by2.2% to 17.2 million in the period, driven by international traffic from the Middle East, South Korea, Singapore and new services to Indonesia.

However, US traffic fell by 1.1 % during the period, affected by heavy storms that plagued the North American coast at the start of the year.

Heathrow also said that cargo volumes lifted by 7.3% in the period, adding that rising passenger and freight demand "is expected to result in an upgrade to 2017 full year forecasts".

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said with Britain leaving the European Union over the next two years, the airport will be vital to the country's interests.

He said: "When Heathrow succeeds, Britain benefits and 2017 is shaping up to be our best year ever.

"Britain is plotting a new course in the world and expanding Heathrow is more important than ever to ensure its success. It will make our country the best connected in the world and secure our export-led future."

The airport said it spent £160m on improvements in the first quarter, including new fast track routes with dedicated security lanes in Terminal 5 and extra space in the immigration hall to ease congestion in Terminal 4.