Heathrow says passenger cap is working

London airport says last-minute cancellations have been reduced

Queues at Heathrow Airport in June. AP
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Heathrow Airport says the daily 100,000 passenger cap it introduced to reduce chaos at its terminals and avoid surprise cancellations is paying off.

The airport said on Thursday that operations had become smoother, helping more flights to leave on time and fewer flights scrapped at the last-minute flight.

More than six million people travelled through Britain's busiest airport in July and it expects about 16 million passengers between July and September as travel rebounds.

“Integral to increasing the departing passenger cap is increasing airline ground handler capacity and resilience, and we have initiated a review of ground handling to support that objective,” Heathrow said.

The airport capped the number of departures at 100,000 a day from July to September 11 to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations, to the consternation of some airlines, including Emirates, which increased its number of flights to London's Gatwick Airport.

It led British Airways to halt ticket sales on some short-haul servicesto make room for passengers who have had their flights scrapped.

Last week, the airport blamed novice travellers for causing delays and long queues by not being abreast of security rules such as limits on carrying liquids.

Heathrow, which has come under fire for failing to react swiftly enough to the lifting of travel restrictions, pointed out that its recruitment for this summer’s holiday began last November, and that it had hired an additional 1,300 recruits.

It said security resources were back at pre pandemic levels, enabling 88 per cent of passengers to clear security within 20 minutes or less.

The airport said it was also working to help the Border Force to boost its numbers for the peak summer period.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Passengers are seeing better, more reliable journeys since the introduction of the demand cap. I want to thank all my colleagues across the airport for their amazing work in getting people away on their holidays. This has only been possible because of the collective and determined efforts of airport, airline and wider Team Heathrow teams.”

Heathrow's update comes as budget airline Ryanair called on the next UK prime minister to have the “backbone” to secure a deal with the EU to open up the free movement of labour.

A shortage of staff has been behind many of the problems seen at UK airports.

Much of the problem lay with the speed that airlines were able to rehire or recruit staff after thousands were let go during the Covid pandemic.

In the meantime, post-Brexit rules make it more difficult to hire foreign staff.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the first thing they should do to boost the British economy is prioritise a trade deal with the European Union — a good starting point for that would be to open up the free movement of labour between the UK and Europe once more.”

Mr O'Leary also said it would be many years before super cheap flights return.

Ryanair’s trademark €1 and €10 ($1.21 and $12.15) fares will not be available for a “number of years” due to rising fuel prices, the budget airline’s boss said.

He said he expected Ryanair’s average fare to rise by about €10 over the next five years, from about €40 ($48.61) last year to roughly €50 by 2027.

He told the broadcaster: “There’s no doubt that at the lower end of the marketplace, our really cheap promotional fares —the €1 fares, the €0.99 fares, even the €9.99 fares — I think you will not see those fares for the next number of years.”

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Updated: August 11, 2022, 10:34 AM