Summer travel woe: Heathrow caps capacity, asks airlines to stop selling tickets

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) is putting a cap on the number of passengers it can handle in light of ongoing travel disruption and asked airlines to stop selling tickets to passengers. 

The airport said it believes airlines, ground handlers and the airport can collectively serve no more than 100,000 departing passengers a day over the summer.  

“Some airlines have taken significant action, but others have not, and we believe that further action is needed now to ensure passengers have a safe and reliable journey,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said in a statement published on July 12, 2022. “We have therefore made the difficult decision to introduce a capacity cap with effect from 12 July to 11 September.”  

The CEO said new security staff had been recruited to deal with the ramp-up in travel demand, but they were still new and “not up to full speed”, while some areas, such as ground handling, which covers check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft, were still significantly “under resourced”. 

“They are doing the very best they can with the resources available and we are giving them as much support as possible, but this is a significant constraint to the airport’s overall capacity,” Holland-Kaye said. 

Departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day over the last few weeks and the lack of staff has led to long security lines, bags not being transported, delays for passengers requiring assistance and last-minute delays and cancellations. 

However, Heathrow said that despite the UK government easing slot rules to ensure airlines don’t run flights just to keep valuable take-off and landing slots, latest forecasts show daily departing seats over the summer will average 104,000.  British Airways is among those which have been canceling flights to help ease disruption.  

“On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers,” Holland-Kaye said. 

“By making this intervention now, our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags.”  

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