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Heathrow orders airlines to stop selling summer flight tickets

Heathrow Airport has told airlines to stop selling summer flight tickets as it imposes a strict cap on passenger numbers.

July 12, 2022
By Neil Lancefield
12 July 2022

Heathrow Airport has ordered airlines to stop selling tickets for summer flights as it imposes a cap on passenger numbers.

No more than 100,000 daily departing passengers are permitted until September 11, London’s main airport announced.

Airlines planned to operate flights with a daily capacity averaging 104,000 seats over that period, according to Heathrow.

That figure was much higher before carriers such as British Airways cancelled thousands of flights due to disruption across the aviation sector.

Travellers queue at security at Heathrow Airport. The airport warned that it may ask airlines to cut more flights from their summer schedules to reduce the strain if the chaos persists. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

Around 131,000 passengers departed on Heathrow's busiest day on record, August 4 2019.

The cap will lead to more cancellations, but passengers will not be entitled to compensation from airlines as the cause will be classified as outside their control.

Some carriers may choose to operate flights with empty seats.

Soaring air fares will increase further as the number of available seats is further cut.

In recent months many passengers have faced long queues and not had their luggage put on their flights.

Airlines were able to take advantage of a Government scheme which meant they had until July 8 to cancel summer flights without losing their future rights to valuable take-off and landing slots.

John Holland-Kaye
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow's chief executive, says more action is needed. (Yui Mok/PA)

Some airlines took "significant action" but "others have not", according to Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

In an open letter to passengers, he wrote: "Further action is needed now to ensure passengers have a safe and reliable journey.

"Our assessment is 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 we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers."

Mr Holland-Kaye admitted there are "some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under-resourced", such as ground handling.

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said the company is "ready to deliver its full schedule this summer".

She went on: "However, we support proactive measures being taken by Heathrow to reduce disruption, as long as action proposed does not disproportionately impact home carriers at the airport.

"Action should be based on thorough analysis showing the most effective measures to improve the situation and keep customers moving.

"We look forward to seeing Heathrow's comprehensive plan for returning to normal operations as soon as possible."

Guy Hobbs, acting editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: "Thousands of people will now be worrying about whether their flight or holiday plans are about to fall apart.

"Heathrow must work with airlines to quickly provide clarity on which flights are being cut, and airlines need to be upfront with those passengers affected about their right to be rebooked at the earliest opportunity, including on services from other airlines."

British Airways, the largest airline at Heathrow, was approached for a response.

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