Heathrow Airport Removes Travel Cap After Summer of Growth

A jet flies overhead to land at Heathrow Airport.Heathrow Airport
Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

LONDON – Having served 18 million passengers over the summer season – more than any other European hub – London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is set to remove it’s travel cap as of tomorrow, 30 October.

Airport management says that the vast majority of Heathrow passengers had good service this summer, and has acknowledged that this was achieved by everyone at the airport working together to serve passengers.  This was helped by joint efforts to keep capacity and demand in balance.

LHR say that theyare working with airlines to agree a highly targeted mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on a small number of peak days in the lead up to Christmas.

This would encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks, and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures.

While demand is stronger, it is not fully recovered, and theAirport forecasts that total passenger numbers for 2022 will reach between 60 – 62 million, approximately 25% fewer than 2019.

Headwinds of a global economic crisis, war in Ukraine and the impact of COVID-19 mean we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for a number of years, except at peak times. 

Meeting demand at peak times

The Airport statement observesthat businesses across the airport need to recruit and train up to 25,000 security cleared people – a huge logistical challenge.

To this end, LHR management are establishing a recruitment taskforce to help fill vacancies, working closely with the Government on a review of airline ground handling and appointing a senior operational executive to invest in joint working.

The Airport’s underlying losses have increased to £0.4bn in the year to date as regulated income fails to cover costs, adding to the £4bn in the prior two years. As such, it does not forecast any dividends this year. 

Focus on short term cost benefits airlines

In their statement, the Airport warns that regulatory focus on short term cost only benefits airlines, not consumers, saying:

“The experience this summer has shown that airlines will charge what the market will bear, regardless of how low the level of airport fees are. That may be commercially rational, but what consumers tell us they value is a smooth and predictable journey through the airport.”

“Our response to the CAA’s Final Proposals on the H7 regulatory settlement has highlighted a number of errors which, if uncorrected, would result in insufficient investment in the service of current and future consumer needs.”

Heathrow CEO statement

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“We can be proud that everyone at Heathrow pulled together to serve consumers this summer – ensuring 18 million people got away on their journeys, more than any other airport in Europe, with the vast majority experiencing good service.”

“We have lifted the summer cap and are working with airlines and their ground handlers to get back to full capacity at peak times as soon as possible.”

“As we look to the future, we encourage the CAA to think again at stimulating the long-term investment that will deliver the smooth and predictable journeys consumer value most, rather than focusing on short-term pricing which we have seen only benefits airline profits.”

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