Etihad Airways will continue to operate five daily return flights between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow for the rest of July, despite requests from Britain’s busiest airport for operators to cut capacity to ease congestion.
“We will be operating all five of our daily flights to and from London at full capacity through to the end of July and are awaiting further information on the airport's longer-term plans for August,” Etihad said in a statement.
“Etihad is working closely with airport stakeholders at Heathrow to minimise any disruption to our operation and our guests over the summer holidays.
“Considering the situation at Heathrow, we have made some minor schedule changes to ensure the integrity of our operation and to avoid a larger disruption to our guests. Our priority over the coming months is to maintain the resilience of our operation and to protect the travel plans of our customers flying to and from Heathrow.”
Heathrow asked airlines this week to stop selling some tickets for summer flights, limiting the total number of daily passengers flying from the hub to 100,000. The airport has been marred by operational issues in recent weeks resulting in flight cancellations, lengthy check-in queues for passengers and problems with baggage handling. Heathrow and other European airports are struggling to cope with surging demand and staff shortages following huge layoffs during the pandemic.
A Heathrow representative did not directly address the Etihad announcement; instead, they repeated remarks made earlier this week about how the airport was forced to impose cuts after failing to find a solution with airlines following months of consultations.
The demands were initially rejected by major airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and British Airways, which said they would continue their services as scheduled. In a statement, Emirates accused Heathrow bosses of showing "blatant disregard for consumers" by attempting to force it to "deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers".
It said Heathrow's demands were "unreasonable and unacceptable" and described the airport management as "cavalier about travellers and airline customers".
Emirates announced on Friday it will continue to fly Heathrow but has agreed not to sell additional tickets until mid-August.
In a joint statement, Emirates president 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.”