The United Kingdom’s Heathrow Airport is restricting the number of travelers permitted daily in an effort to regain control over the chaos in the travel industry.
The London airport has set a 100,000 passenger daily limit through September 11. The policy is likely to lead to additional canceled flights and disruptions for summer travelers.
“The global aviation industry is recovering from the pandemic, but the legacy of COVID continues to pose challenges for the entire sector as it rebuilds capacity,” wrote John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive officer of Heathrow, in an open letter.
Like other major travel hubs in Europe, Heathrow has struggled to keep up with the current travel demands as the industry rebounds following a severe downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holland-Kaye noted that the airport has had more than 100,000 departing passengers each day for weeks causing “drops” in service that are “not acceptable,” including “long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations.”
“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 CEO stated. “We are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers”
“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,” Holland-Kaye added. “We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.”
Heathrow began recruiting additional staff to make up for losses incurred during the last two years but warned that it will not reach its pre-pandemic security staffing levels until the end of July.
“U.K. aviation authorities demanded that airlines ensure they can operate without disruption over the summer, with carriers not punished for not using their valuable takeoff and landing slots,” reports SF Gate.
In June, London’s Gatwick Airport also capped summer flights to avoid departure chaos and cancellation issues. The airport will offer 825 daily flights in July and 850 daily flights in August. On average, the airport offers roughly 900 flights a day in August.
Airlines are also struggling with staffing shortages.
Heathrow’s largest carrier, British Airways, reduced its summer schedule by thousands of flights to avoid cancellations due to staffing shortages.
“This new flexibility means that we can further reduce our schedule and consolidate some of our quieter services so that we can protect as many of our holiday flights as possible,” a company spokesperson told Reuters.