Heathrow’s controversial passenger cap now lasts until October

Jul 21, 2022

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The controversial flight cap ushered in by London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), which was originally planned to end on Sept. 11, is now expected to last all the way until Oct. 29.

Set to affect well over a quarter of a million passengers, officials at the United Kingdom’s premier airport recently introduced a limit on departing passengers of 100,000 per day, 4,000 fewer than the amount forecast.

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The extension of the cap is bound to now have an even bigger impact on airlines already furious at the measure. It was only Wednesday that Emirates agreed to limit passenger numbers at the U.K’s busiest airport, having previously accused Heathrow officials of having a blatant disregard for flyers.

“Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp-up, and is working to adjust capacity,” the airline has since said.

“In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked,” it added. Quite the statement after previously accusing LHR of “incompetence and non-action.”

According to The Telegraph, Heathrow officials have reportedly warned carriers they could face legal action should they fail to reduce the capacity of their flights.

Inbound flights are also set to feel the pinch as Heathrow looks to ensure it can make it through the summer intact by reducing pressure on its staff. The news of the extension of the cap has been met with befuddlement from industry insiders.

“These further limits on flight numbers will lead many to question why Heathrow is unable to get a grip on its staffing crisis before October at the earliest,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency.

“Consumers will be concerned about booking half-term trips if they know that Heathrow is continuing to limit passenger numbers toward the end of the year.”

Airbus SE A380 in flight
An Airbus A380 operated by Emirates prepares to land at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Flightwise, the cap will be set at 1,000 from July 11 to Aug. 31, before dropping by 50 flights for the months of September and October. Prior to the pandemic, Heathrow’s runways were home to 1,350 flights a day.

The news comes on top of additional strikes expected this week, when 50 workers for Aviation Fuel Services — which is responsible for half of the non-British Airways traffic — will walk out over pay.

Related: What to do when an airline loses your bag

While Heathrow officials hope an additional month of capped flights will give them more space and time to deal with gremlins in the system, it’s fair to say the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority aren’t on board.

Cabin crew members arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in 2021. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

In a joint letter to Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye, they asked why “Heathrow has determined that 100,000 departing passengers per day provide a safe and resilient airport with a positive passenger experience.”

They also asked those on the ground at the London hub to “develop a credible and resilient capacity recovery plan for the next six months” as well as ready themselves for “weather shocks” and the arrival of the school holidays.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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