Heathrow has confirmed it will extend the existing limits on the airport’s capacity through to 29 October, the end of the summer season. This will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways. Management confirms it has done so in consultation with the airlines.
In July of this year, Heathrow introduced temporary capacity limits to improve passenger journeys over the summer getaway. According to CNN, overcrowding and staff shortages were among the factors contributing to longer-than-expected wait times at airport security, lost luggage, delayed and canceled flights and other hurdles as many travelers eagerly set off on their first post-pandemic vacations. By better balancing passenger demand with available resources, the airport was able to operate a safe airport ecosystem that prioritizes passenger needs.
Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel.Ross Baker, Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer
The decision to impose a cap caused a stir in the commercial aviation industry. So much so that in a bout of frustration the director general of IATA, Willie Walsh, said, “At Heathrow they are a bunch of idiots”. Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow, Walsh criticized the cap of 100,000 passengers per day imposed by Heathrow’s management stating that the airport had underestimated the speed of recovery from the pandemic and focused on profits, at the expense of the airlines that must now foot the bill.
On August 11th, Heathrow announced that the cap has resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations, better punctuality and shorter waits for bags. Several other airports, including Gatwick, Frankfurt and Schiphol have also put in place equivalent capacity limits as the entire aviation sector, both home and away, faces similar challenges. Schiphol has also extended its cap through to the end of October.
The capacity limits will be kept under regular review and could be lifted earlier should there be a sustained picture of better resilience and a material increase in resourcing levels, notably at some airline ground handlers which remains a core constraint on capacity at the airport. The airport is a complex ecosystem with many organizations needing to work closely together. We encourage our partners to be transparent in sharing data, particularly on recruitment of additional colleagues, so that we can build confidence in the removal of the capacity limits as quickly as possible.
We want to remove the cap as soon as possible but we can only do so when confident that we can deliver the service our passengers deserve.Ross Baker, Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer
To support efforts to build back resilience in the airport system, Heathrow launched a review of airline ground handling last week. As part of an overall review of the ecosystem, the airport will be working with airlines and ground handlers to understand how we can unlock more capacity in this critical part of the airport, enabling the staff to meet passenger demand in the months and years ahead.
According to CNN, travelers who have already booked their tickets should assume their reservations are confirmed unless they hear otherwise from the airline. Passengers will also be able to make new bookings, although flights may already be full and some airlines will likely reduce their flight schedules. There is a chance that the reduced number of available seats could lead to higher fares.