Heathrow scraps 30 flights to limit passenger numbers

Paris also hit by disruption and cancellation as summer of chaos kicks in

Queues at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday. Photo: Jamie Heath/Twitter
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London's Heathrow Airport told airlines to cut 30 flights from their schedules on Thursday morning, warning that too many passengers were booked to pass through its gates for the day.

Concerns that peak passenger numbers would exceed the level the airport can safely handle forced the removal of the flights, forcing airlines to rebook some travellers. A spokesman apologised for the impact the move would have on the people involved.

France’s civil aviation authority ordered a 17 per cent reduction in flights out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle on Thursday because of a strike by firefighters. The walkout was expected to lead to a shutdown of two out of the hub’s four runways between 7am and 2pm local time.

The labour strife could continue into the weekend and spill over to Paris’s other hub at Orly, as more categories of workers plan walkouts.

As a result of the disruptions Thursday, Air France-KLM’s French arm cancelled 62 flights, while maintaining all of its long-haul and 90 per cent of short and medium-haul connections, a spokesman said.

Travellers line up at the Orly Airport, south of Paris, during a major weekend of the French summer holidays. AFP

While the flights affected represent only a small portion of the total from the two airports, the last-minute cancellations add to the chaos surrounding travel in Europe as staffing shortages up-end timetables and labour unrest gathers steam.

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport before the coronavirus pandemic, will work with carriers to rebook passengers onto services outside peak hours so that as many as possible can still fly, it said in a statement Wednesday.

The scrapping of flights at Heathrow comes even after British Airways, the airport’s biggest airline, slashed summer capacity 10 per cent to reduce pressure on operations.

“We are working hard to ensure everyone has a smooth journey through Heathrow this summer,” the hub said. “The most important thing is to make sure that all service providers at the airport have enough resources to meet demand.”

Heathrow has in recent weeks experienced numerous issues including a backlog of uncollected luggage.

Photos showing hundreds of suitcases stacked in areas of the airport sparked a barrage of criticism online, after passengers were forced to go home without retrieving their bags. Like other airports, Heathrow’s day-to-day operations have suffered setbacks due to a shortage of staff including baggage handlers.

The aviation regulator told Heathrow it must reduce its passenger charges, as demand for flights continues to rise.

The Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday said the cap on the west London airport’s average charge per passenger should fall from £30.19 to £26.31 by 2026 — equivalent to nearly a 6 per cent reduction each year when the effects of inflation are removed

At Paris-CDG, the country’s biggest international airport, the upheaval could get worse on Friday when a strike is planned by unions representing a broader group of workers.

Talks between operator Aeroports de Paris and labour representatives failed to reach a wage deal earlier this week, with staff demanding better compensation to reflect inflation and improved working conditions.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 8:40 AM
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