Emirates wins battle to keep flights at Heathrow but agrees not to sell more tickets

Europe's busiest airport has been hit by disruption in recent months

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Emirates will continue to fly from Heathrow but has agreed not to sell additional tickets until mid-August following delays and disruption at Europe's busiest airport.

Heathrow has been marred by operational issues in recent weeks that have resulted in flight cancellations, lengthy check-in queues for passengers as well as problems with baggage handling.

On Tuesday, Heathrow sparked a row after it imposed a cap of 100,000 daily departing passengers and urged airlines to stop selling summer tickets.

The demands were rejected by major airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and British Airways, which said they would continue their services as scheduled.

In a joint statement, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark and Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said both companies had held a “constructive meeting” on Friday in which they agreed to keep “demand and capacity in balance”.

“Emirates agreed the airline was ready and willing to work with the airport to remediate the situation over the next two weeks, to keep demand and capacity in balance and provide passengers with a smooth and reliable journey through Heathrow this summer,” the statement said.

“Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp-up, and is working to adjust capacity.

“In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow [will] operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked.”

An Emirates A380 taxis on the tarmac at London Heathrow Airport in 2018. Getty Images

Heathrow and other European airports have capped passenger numbers to combat flight delays and cancellations caused by surging demand and staff shortages following huge layoffs during the pandemic.

In December last year, Heathrow said it expected passenger numbers for 2022 to reach about 45 million.

It subsequently raised its forecast to “nearly 53 million” in May and 54.4 million for last month.

Terminal 4 reopened on June 14, three months after the UK lifted all remaining coronavirus travel restrictions.

It was the last terminal at any major European airport to resume operations during the pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic chief customer and operating officer Corneel Koster said “everybody should have got ready for this increased demand”.

He told the PA news agency: “If you’re around the table and the Heathrow voice says, ‘it won’t happen, it will come later, I will only open my fourth terminal in June’, that’s a planning mistake.

“They have downplayed demand. They should have opened [Terminal 4] earlier. They should have played an even stronger role in the community.”

Updated: July 16, 2022, 3:15 PM
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