On 12 July, London’s Heathrow airport, which is one of the busiest airports in the world, asked airlines to stop selling tickets for the summer and put a capacity cap of 1,00,000 passengers per day. This restriction will be in place till 11 September.
This comes at a time when there has been a rebound in demand for air travel after COVID but with airlines struggling to cope with the same.
Why was this announced? What are the new guidelines? Here's all you need to know if you are planning a trip to London.
What are the new guidelines?
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye announced on 12 July that the airport has decided to limit departures to 100,000 per until 11 September.
Holland-Kaye said that the decision would mean “summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled,” reported Reuters.
But why is this happening?
Like many European cities, London's Heathrow has been struggling for the past few months, but especially since June. The surge in travel post pandemic, and the understaffing of people at airports have combined to hours-long queue, cancellations, and baggage delays.
“New colleagues are learning fast but are not yet up to full speed. However, there are some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced, in particular ground handlers, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft,” Heathrow said, apologising for the move, but also explaining that the staff shortage has forced them to take this move.
Which flights are being cut?
Heathrow on average has 1,04,000 bookings per day this summer with 1,500 of the extra 4,000 already sold on average, reported Reuters. It is these estimated 1,500 that may be looking at cancellation or postponement due to the new guidelines.
The exact flights have not been announced yet.
A Heathrow spokesperson told BBC that it would take "a couple of days" for the scheduling company, Airport Coordination Limited, to work with the airlines and make decisions.
What do you do if you have already booked your tickets?
As of now, you can check with individual airlines.
Your flight will go ahead as planned unless your airline contacts you and informs you of a change in date or cancellation.
Keep a track of your emails for messages from airlines.
The airport also advises you to check your flight status before you head to the airport.
Will transit flights also be cancelled?
There is no clarity on this. Stay tuned to this space for more information.
What have the passengers experienced at Heathrow recently?
There have been key issues such as last-minute cancellations, baggage pile-ups, long queues, among others. According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, despite scheduled flights being down 22 percent in June, departing flights from the UK were up by 188 percent, compared to June 2019, reported CNN Travel.
What are the alternatives to Heathrow?
London is served by five other airports besides Heathrow. You can also travel from airports near London such as Birmingham International Airport, which is an hour by train from London.
Is the situation this bad at only Heathrow?
Heathrow has cut its capacity to similar percentages such as Schiphol in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Eindhoven, and others.
It must be noted that Schiphol became the first airport to introduce a capacity cut but that was done to reduce emissions.
Airports across Europe have been struggling due to staff shortages this summer, with unrest at Lufthansa, SAS, Ryanair, Easyjet, and Norwegian Air, reported The Indian Express.
(With inputs from Reuters, BBC, and CNN Travel.)