LONDON – Heathrow Airport has decided to implement limits on airport operations from 12 July to 11 September.
The maximum number of passengers handled at England’s largest airport must not exceed 100K pax per day. It is also recommended to arrive three hours before departure.
In the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100K a day, LHR has started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not traveling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations.
This is due to a combination of reduced arrivals punctuality, as a result of delays at other airports and in European airspace. to this, it’s added increased passenger numbers starting to exceed the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport.
The global aviation industry is recovering from the pandemic, but the legacy of COVID continues to pose challenges for the entire sector as it rebuilds capacity. At Heathrow, we have seen 40 years of passenger growth in just four months. Despite this, we managed to get the vast majority of passengers away smoothly on their journeys through the Easter and half term peaks. This was only possible because of close collaboration and planning with our airport partners including airlines, airline ground handlers and Border Forcesaid John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO.
The airport CEO stated the company started recruiting back in November last year in anticipation of capacity recovering this summer, and by the end of July, Heathrow has as many people working in security as it had pre-pandemic.
Airport also reopened and moved 25 airlines into Terminal 4 to provide more space for passengers and grow our passenger service team.
New colleagues are learning fast but are not yet up to full speed. However, there are some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced, in particular ground handlers, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft. They are doing the very best they can with the resources available and we are giving them as much support possible, but this is a significant constraint to the airport’s overall capacityadds Holland-Kaye.
LHR told airlines to stop selling summer tickets
Some airlines have taken significant action, but others have not, and airports believe that further action is needed now to ensure passengers have a safe and reliable journey.
LHR made the difficult decision to introduce a capacity cap with effect from 12 July to 11 September. Similar measures to control passenger demand have been implemented at other airports both in the UK and around the world.
Heathrow explains that the maximum number of daily departing passengers that airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport can collectively serve over the summer is no more than 100,000.
The latest forecasts indicate that even despite the amnesty, daily departing seats over the summer will average 104,000 – giving a daily excess of 4,000 seats.
On average, only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so airports are desperate to ask airlines to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.
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 journeystated Heathrow CEO.
Walsh: Ridiculous thing
Heathrow Airport has been accused of trying to maximize profits in a tough travel period at the expense of airlines, Sky News reports.
The claim comes from Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the organization representing airlines globally.
He spoke out after the airport told airlines to stop selling summer tickets and after it imposed new daily limits – until 11 September.
Walsh said the UK’s busiest airport had underestimated the pace of recovery and was focusing on its own profits, forcing airlines to bear the cost.
To tell airlines to stop selling – what a ridiculous thing for an airport to say to an airline. Heathrow are trying to maximise the profitability that they get from the airport at the expense of airlines. I am surprised Heathrow have not been able to get their act together better than this. Airlines have been predicting stronger traffic than Heathrow has been predicting… they clearly got it completely wrong. The cynic in me would say that that was playing to their game of trying to fool the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) when it came to economic regulation, playing down the number of passengerssaid Wille Walsh to Reuters.
Heathrow’s problems are not isolated. According to the Cirium service, more than 25,000 scheduled flights have already been canceled worldwide for August.
Airlines are cutting services mainly due to staff shortages. Carriers, especially in Europe, are also not helped by strikes, the war in Ukraine, and, above all, capacity problems at major hubs in London or Amsterdam.
IATA estimates that demand for air travel fell to just 3% of normal levels in early 2020, the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.