Heathrow Airport said on Tuesday it would limit the number of passengers until mid-September, citing a staff shortage that has led to long queues, delays, baggage loss and last-minute flight cancellations.
In an open letter to travelersJohn Holland Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, has called on airlines to stop selling new tickets as vital functions at the airport have been severely restricted.
“We understand that this means that some summer flights are either moved to another day or to another airport or canceled, and we apologize to those whose travel plans have been affected,” he said. In recent weeks, he said, there have been periods when service has fallen to an “unacceptable” level.
Mr Holland Kaye said the airport could only handle 100,000 departures each day, just under the 104,000 it was expected to serve on average. Airlines have been asked to limit the number of tickets they sell to bring the numbers back below the 100,000 cap.
When asked how Heathrow Airport will enforce the maximum capacity, airport spokeswoman Hannah Smith said she said this would be overseen by an independent coordinator, Airport Coordination Limited.
The airport coordinator said in a statement that compliance with Heathrow’s request was voluntary, as there is no mechanism in Britain that would allow it to remove runway slots designated for airlines. The company said it will calculate the required reduction in the number of passengers for each airline, and airlines can decide which flights to cancel or to comply with the request at all.
Virgin Atlantic, one of Britain’s largest airlines, said in a statement that it is ready to offer its full schedule this summer.
“However, we support Heathrow’s proactive measures to reduce disruption, as long as the proposed measure does not disproportionately affect home carriers at the airport,” the airline said. “The action should be based on a comprehensive analysis that demonstrates the most effective measures to improve the situation and maintain customer traffic.”
Summer travel in Europe has been marred by chaos at airports as airlines struggle to keep up with staff shortages amid a surge of passengers eager to fly after pandemic lockdowns. last week, Scandinavian airline SAS has filed for bankruptcy protection After hitting its pilots. There have also been strikes by airport and airline staff across Europe, amid frustration with long hours and low wages that have not kept pace with rising inflation.
Other airports have taken similar measures. Last month, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport feet cap capacityCiting a shortage of security staff and demand for air travel that far exceeds expectations, London’s Gatwick Airport said last month that It will reduce flights for the months of July and August. British Airways said it would operate on an 11 per cent reduced schedule until October.
Mr Holland Kaye said Heathrow began recruiting in November, in anticipation of higher demand for summer travel, but some key roles were still understaffed, including ground handlers, whom airlines contract to load and unload bags, and turn and deliver aircraft. . Passenger check-in services.