As it ramps up attempts to ease travel turmoil brought on by surging travel demand and manpower shortages, London’s Heathrow Airport is capping daily passenger counts for the summer and instructing airlines to stop selling tickets.
(AP) LONDON — As it ramps up attempts to ease travel turmoil brought on by surging travel demand and manpower shortages, London’s Heathrow Airport is capping daily passenger counts for the summer and instructing airlines to stop selling tickets.
The busiest airport in Britain said on Tuesday that it will establish a daily cap of 100,000 passengers through September 11. Even after airlines previously cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules, the limitation is likely to lead to more cancellations.
Aviation regulators in the United Kingdom required that airlines make sure their operations can continue unhindered during the summer and that carriers won’t be penalized for not using their prized takeoff and landing slots. They were responding to the chaotic scenes at the airport where travelers were lamenting the long security lines, misplaced bags, and protracted flight delays.
Heathrow claimed that even after making that adjustment, there would still be more travelers than the airport’s ground crew could handle. Heathrow has previously warned that it would require airlines to cancel further flights.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye wrote in an open letter to customers that “some airlines have taken considerable steps, but others have not, and we believe that further action is needed now to ensure passengers enjoy a safe and dependable flight.”
According to the airport, airlines plan to fly flights over the summer with an average daily capacity of 104,000 seats, which is 4,000 more than Heathrow can accommodate. Out of the 4,000 additional daily seats, just roughly 1,500 had been sold to passengers.
Therefore, Holland-Kaye added, “We are encouraging our airline partners to suspend selling summer tickets to minimize the impact on passengers.”
The majority-owned airline at Heathrow, British Airways, has already reduced 11% of its scheduled flights between April and October. A request for comment regarding whether it might cancel future flights on Tuesday went unanswered.
Although it is “ready to fulfill its full schedule this summer,” Virgin Atlantic, which is based at Heathrow, said it welcomed the airport’s “proactive efforts” to lessen disruption as provided as they didn’t have a disproportionately negative effect on its home carriers.
This summer, similar limitations were enforced by several airports across Europe. Gatwick Airport in London has a cap on daily flight numbers, whereas Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam reduced its daily passenger cap by 13,500.
After two years of COVID-19 travel restrictions, a surge in demand for summer travel has overtaken European airlines and airports, which amid the pandemic fired tens of thousands of pilots, cabin crew, check-in workers, ground crew, and baggage handlers.
According to Heathrow, a hiring push was launched in November, and by the end of July, it is anticipated that security manning would be back to pre-pandemic levels.
A “major restriction” to the overall capacity, according to Holland-Kaye, is that “certain important operations in the airport are still severely under-resourced, in particular ground handlers, who are paid by airlines to supply check-in workers, load and unload bags, and turnaround planes.”
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