BA restricts sales of Heathrow short-haul flights for the remainder of the summer

BA restricts sales of Heathrow short-haul flights for the remainder of the summer

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British Airways will restrict sales of short-haul flights from Heathrow throughout the summer and will no longer offer tickets for departures before August 15 to avoid further disruption and flight cancellations.

BA’s unprecedented move comes in response to London Airport’s passenger cap, which caps the total at 100,000 per day, after staff shortages led to long queues, flight delays and baggage problems earlier this year.

The airline said it was taking “responsible actions” that would strengthen resilience and that suspending 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 not be removing any more departures from its schedule under the new plans and existing bookings will not be affected.

After August 15, the airline plans to restrict sales “dynamically” rather than with a blanket ban, but expects to continue to limit available seats for busier days and periods over the summer. The measures would protect existing bookings and help manage disruptions due to other factors such as adverse weather or air traffic restrictions.

A spokesman for British Airways said: “We have taken preventive action to reduce our flight schedule this summer to give customers peace of mind about their travel plans and to bring more resilience into our operations in light of the ongoing challenges facing the wider airline industry bring to.

“When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we removed a small number of additional flights from our schedule. And to remain within the cap, we have taken responsible action by limiting the sale or all available fares on some of our Heathrow routes to ensure more seats are available for rebooking customers.

“We will continue to manage bookings to stay within the cap imposed by Heathrow to allow us to get our customers away as planned this summer.”

Airlines and airports across the UK and Europe are struggling with the post-pandemic travel recovery, with many still unable to hire enough staff, particularly for ground-handling services such as check-in and baggage.

Heathrow said it now has as many security guards as it had in 2019 and that 80% of passengers will clear security in 20 minutes or less. But Heathrow added that its airlines, which are responsible for hiring or accommodating ground staff, do not have enough staff to manage.

It asked airlines to cap the number of tickets they sell over the summer after capping the number of passengers passing through the airport at 100,000 a day to limit queues. Another airline, Emirates, which initially resisted the order, has now agreed to limit sales along with BA.

Despite the cap, an average of more than 100,000 people a day flew in the first 10 days of Britain’s summer holidays, Heathrow said. Over 1 million people flew during the airport’s busiest departure time since Christmas 2019, with New York, Los Angeles and Dubai being the main routes.

According to Heathrow, the high proportion of occasional leisure travelers unfamiliar with the airport and current documentation requirements is slowing down progress at check-in desks and security. Delays were caused by people ignoring rules banning liquids over 100ml in carry-on luggage, while airport queues were exacerbated by anxious passengers arriving more than three hours before departure, before check-ins opened.

Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe said Heathrow was keen to operate without a cap as soon as possible but airlines needed to have adequate ground handling resources.

She said: “The airport was struggling to cope with the increase in passenger traffic, which was beyond the collective capacity of companies across the airport to serve them. This has resulted in an unacceptable increase in boarding delays at the stand, bags not traveling with passengers or being delivered to the baggage hall very late, poor departure punctuality, and some flights being canceled after passengers have boarded.

“The cap has slightly reduced passenger numbers, aligning them with available resources and therefore already resulting in better and more reliable journeys for passengers.”

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