Photography: Steve Parsons/PA
British Airways will restrict sales of short-haul flights from Heathrow throughout the summer, with no more tickets for departures before 15 August, in an attempt to avoid further disruptions and flight cancellations.
BA’s unprecedented move comes in response to London airport’s passenger cap, capping the total number of passengers to 100,000 a day, after staff shortages led to long lines, flight delays and baggage issues earlier this year. year.
The airline said it was taking “responsible action” that would increase resilience and that the suspension of its seat sales to domestic and European destinations would also allow existing customers to rebook flights as needed.
BA canceled more than 10,000 summer flights last month, but will no longer remove departures from the schedule under the new plans, and any existing bookings will be affected.
After Aug 15, the airline plans to restrict sales “dynamically” rather than a blanket ban, but expects to continue limiting available seats to busier days and periods during the summer. He said the measures would protect existing bookings and help manage any disruptions due to other factors such as adverse weather or air traffic restrictions.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “We have taken precautionary steps to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans and build more resilience into our operation given the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.
“When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we took a small number of additional flights from our schedule. And to continue to meet the cap, we are taking responsible action, limiting sales, or all available fares, on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available for rebooking customers.
“We will continue to manage bookings within the limit imposed by Heathrow so that we can drive our customers away as planned this summer.”
Airlines and airports in Britain and Europe have struggled to cope with the travel recovery in the wake of the pandemic, with many still unable to recruit enough staff, particularly in ground-handling services such as check-in and baggage.
Heathrow said it now has as many people employed in security as it did in 2019, and that 80% of passengers will pass through security in 20 minutes or less. But Heathrow added that its airlines, which are responsible for hiring or contracting ground personnel, do not have enough staff to manage.
He told airlines to limit the number of tickets they sell during the summer, after limiting the number of passengers passing through the airport to 100,000 a day to limit queues. Another carrier, Emirates, which initially resisted the request, has now agreed to limit sales along with BA.
Despite the cap, an average of more than 100,000 people a day took off in the first 10 days of the UK summer break, Heathrow said. More than 1 million people have flown in the airport’s busiest period for departures since Christmas 2019, with New York, Los Angeles and Dubai being the main routes.
Heathrow said the high proportion of casual leisure travelers unfamiliar with the airport and current documentation requirements is slowing progress at check-in counters and security. The delays were caused by people ignoring rules banning liquids over 100ml in carry-on luggage, while airport queues were exacerbated by anxious passengers who arrived more than three hours before departure, before check-ins opened. ins.
Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe said Heathrow wants to operate without limit as quickly as possible, but would require airlines to have sufficient ground-handling resources.
She said: “The airport has struggled to cope with the increase in passenger volumes beyond the collective ability of companies across the airport to serve them. This has resulted in an unacceptable increase in delays in getting planes back on their feet, bags that do not travel with passengers or are delivered too late to the luggage room, poor departure punctuality, and some flights being canceled after passengers have boarded.
“The cap has slightly reduced the number of passengers, bringing them into line with available resources and, as a result, is already resulting in better and more reliable travel for passengers.”