Heathrow limits passenger numbers over summer

The UK’s biggest airport has been struggling to cope with the rebound in demand for air travel.

Heathrow passengerImage source, Getty Images

Heathrow Airport is limiting the number of passengers who can depart each day to 100,000 over the summer, as the UK’s biggest airport struggles to cope with the rebound in demand for air travel.

The cap will apply from today until 11 September, the airport said.

Heathrow said its latest forecasts indicated daily departing seats over the summer would average 104,000.

The airport has told airlines “to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers”.

Tens of thousands of UK passengers have been affected by travel disruption in recent weeks.

Airports and airlines, which cut jobs during Covid lockdowns, have struggled to recruit staff as demand for holidays has returned. The UK is about to enter the key summer holiday season as schools begin to break up.

Heathrow’s boss John Holland-Kaye said that “action is needed now” to ensure safe and reliable journeys for passengers.

“Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations,” he said.

“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.”

Ministers told carriers to review their plans after chaos in May, blamed on a shortage of airline and airport staff.

In addition, a temporary government “amnesty” to the rules on airport slots was put in place, allowing airlines to change schedules without facing a potential penalty.

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