London’s Heathrow Airport says it will restrict passengers

London's Heathrow Airport says it will restrict passengers
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LONDON – Heathrow Airport said on Tuesday it would limit passenger numbers until mid-September, citing staff shortages that have caused long queues, delays, lost luggage and last-minute flight cancellations.

In an open letter to passengersHeathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has called on airlines to stop selling new tickets as critical functions at the airport are severely curtailed.

“We understand this means some summer travel will either be rescheduled, to another airport or cancelled, and we apologize to those whose travel plans have been affected,” he said. He said there were periods in recent weeks when the service dropped to “unacceptable” levels.

Mr. Holland-Kaye said the airport will not be able to handle more than 100,000 flights each day, slightly less than the 104,000 it estimates it will handle on average. He asked airlines to limit the number of tickets they sell to bring the numbers back below 100,000.

Asked how Heathrow would enforce the capacity limit, airport spokeswoman Hannah Smith said it would be overseen by an independent coordinator, Airport Coordination Limited.

The airport’s coordinator said in a statement that compliance with Heathrow’s request was voluntary because there was no mechanism in Britain that would have allowed it to remove runway slots from airlines. The company said it would calculate the required reduction in passengers for each airline, and airlines could decide which flights to cancel or whether to comply at all.

Virgin Atlantic, one of Britain’s biggest carriers, said in a statement it is set to deliver its full schedule this summer.

“However, as long as the proposed measures do not disproportionately affect domestic carriers at the airport, we support the proactive measures taken by Heathrow to reduce delays,” the airline said. “A move should be based on a comprehensive analysis that shows the most effective measures to improve the situation and keep customers moving.”

Europe’s summer travel season has seen chaos at airports as airlines struggle to keep up with staff shortages amid a surge in passengers wanting to travel after pandemic lockdowns. Last week, Scandinavian airline SAS has filed for bankruptcy protection after its pilots went on strike. There have also been walkouts by airport and airline workers across Europe amid frustration with long working hours and low wages that have failed to keep pace with rising inflation.

Other airports have implemented similar measures. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam last month applied a capacity limitCiting security staff shortages and higher-than-expected demand for air travel, London’s Gatwick Airport also said last month that will reduce flights in July and August. British Airways said it would operate an 11 percent reduced schedule until October.

Mr. Holland-Kaye said Heathrow had started work in November in anticipation of high demand for summer travel, but some key roles were still short, including ground staff contracted by airlines to load and unload bags, turn planes around and provide screening. . in passenger service.

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