Heathrow, like other airports around the world, struggled over the past summer with the return of demand as the pandemic came to an end. The airport’s lack of staff led to chaos, long queues and last-minute flight cancellations. To mitigate the impact, Heathrow introduced a 100,000 daily passenger cap in July, asking airlines to cancel part of their schedule in advance.
The cap, which was initially supposed to be active until 11 September, but then extended, was lifted on 30 October, with the airport reporting improvement since the cap had been installed and good results over the past 9 months.
We can be proud that everyone at Heathrow pulled together to serve consumers this summer, ensuring 18 million people got away on their journeys, more than any other airport in Europe, with the vast majority experiencing good service.John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO
“We have lifted the summer cap and are working with airlines and their ground handlers to get back to full capacity at peak times as soon as possible. As we look to the future, we encourage the CAA to think again at stimulating the long-term investment that will deliver the smooth and predictable journeys consumer value most, rather than focusing on short-term pricing which we have seen only benefits airline profits”, said the airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye
Despite removing the cap, Heathrow indicated it could reinstate it over Christmas holidays, especially for the peak days. The airport said it is working with airlines to agree on a highly targeted mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on a small number of peak days in the lead up to Christmas. The aim is to encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures.
In the same statement, Heathrow forecasts that total passenger numbers for 2022 will reach between 60 – 62 million, approximately 25% less than for 2019, with challenges like the global economic crisis, war in Ukraine and the impact of Covid-19 making it hard to return to pre-pandemic levels for at least another few years.
Lastly, Heathrow said its priority is to build back the airport’s capacity to meet demand at peak times, for which businesses across the airport need to recruit and train up to 25,000 security cleared people. The airport is also establishing a recruitment taskforce to help fill vacancies, working closely with the Government on a review of airline ground handling and appointing a senior operational executive to invest in joint working.