London’s Heathrow Airport says it is restricting passengers

LONDON – Heathrow Airport said on Tuesday it would limit passenger numbers until mid-September, citing staff shortages that have led to long queues, delays, lost luggage and last-minute flight cancellations.

In an open letter to travellersHeathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kay, called on airlines to stop selling new tickets as critical operations at the airport were significantly restricted.

“We know this will result in some summer trips being rescheduled, diverted to another airport or cancelled, and we apologize to those whose travel plans have been affected,” he said. In recent weeks, there have been periods where service has dropped to “unacceptable” levels.

The airport cannot handle more than 100,000 departures every day, Mr. Holland-Kay said that’s slightly less than the 104,000 he estimated it would serve on average. He asked airlines to reduce the number of tickets they sell to bring the numbers back within the 100,000 range.

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

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

Virgin Atlantic, one of Britain’s biggest carriers, said in a statement it was ready to offer its full schedule this summer.

“However, as long as the proposed action does not disproportionately affect domestic carriers at the airport, we support Heathrow’s proactive steps to minimize disruption,” the airline said. “Action should be based on a thorough analysis that shows the most effective measures to improve the situation and move customers.”

Summer travel in Europe has been hit by chaos at airports as airlines struggle to keep up with staff shortages amid a surge in travelers eager to travel after pandemic lockdowns. last week, Scandinavian Airlines SAS files for bankruptcy protection After its pilots went on strike. There have also been walkouts by airport and airline workers across Europe amid frustration over long hours and low wages that have not kept up with rising inflation.

Other airports have introduced similar measures. Last month, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam Introduced capacity capLondon’s Gatwick Airport also said last month, citing a shortage of security staff and higher-than-expected demand for air travel. This will reduce flights for July and August. British Airways said it would operate an 11 percent reduced schedule until October.

Mr. But some key tasks are still understaffed, Holland-Kay said, and airlines contract to load and unload bags and deliver them around the plane. Check-in services for passengers.

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