Heathrow Airport limits passengers, asks airlines to stop selling summer tickets

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Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said the London airport has "seen 40 years of passenger growth in just four months."
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said the London airport has "seen 40 years of passenger growth in just four months." Photo Credit: Heathrow Airports Ltd.

Because the airport has been unable to keep pace with the recovery of air travel, London Heathrow is capping the number of passengers at the airport this summer at 100,000 per day.

In order to achieve that goal, the airport has asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets.

The capacity cap is in effect from July 12 to Sept. 11.

In an open letter to passengers about the capacity cap, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye 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."

With the rebound from Covid-19, Holland-Kaye said Heathrow has "seen 40 years of passenger growth in just four months." He added that it has been a challenge to meet all of the airport's staffing needs. He anticipates that Heathrow will reach pre-pandemic levels of security workers by the end of July.

Holland-Kaye indicated that the airlines have had staffing troubles, too.

"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 turn around 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 capacity." 

Heathrow this spring and summer has been plagued by long security lines, bags not traveling with passengers and late-arriving bags, flight delays and flight cancellations.

In a BBC interview on July 10, former British Airways CEO Willie Walsh said Heathrow "should have prepared better" for pent-up travel demand. Walsh is currently IATA's director general.

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