Jul 12, 2022 - Economy

Heathrow caps passengers, tells airlines to stop selling summer tickets

Passengers in the departures hall of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport

Passengers in the departures hall of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport on April 13. Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

London's Heathrow Airport announced on Tuesday that it would place cap limits on the number of daily departing passengers and asked airlines to stop selling new tickets through the remainder of the summer season.

Why it matters: Heathrow, like other airports and airlines, is struggling to meet the surge in demand for air travel while contending with staffing shortages.

State of play: The passenger cap will last from July 12 to Sept. 11 and limit the daily number of departing passengers to 100,000, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye wrote in an open letter to passengers.

  • Current forecasts suggest that the daily departing numbers are still slated to average 104,000, an excess of 4,000.
  • "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," Holland-Kaye wrote.

What they're saying: "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 traveling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations," Holland-Kaye wrote.

  • "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 journey and arrive at their destination with their bags," he added.
  • While Heathrow began recruiting new employees last year in anticipation of the summer season, parts of the airport's critical functioning remain understaffed, including ground handlers, Holland-Kaye added.
  • In addition, the airport has seen 40 years of passenger growth in four months.

The big picture: Other airports have placed similar limits in recent weeks.

  • London's Gatwick Airport, the second largest in the U.K., announced last month that it would limit the number of flights during the summer season to 825 daily in July and 850 daily in August.
  • Amsterdam's Schiphol airport likewise announced last month that it would limit daily passengers to 70,000, about 16% fewer than airlines had anticipated.
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