Heathrow passengers numbers up by 172% in August

Airport has capped number of travellers it will serve until October

Heathrow Airport reported a massive rise in passenger numbers in August. AP
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Heathrow Airport’s passenger numbers swelled by 172 per cent in August compared to the same month last year, new figures show.

The west London hub has been blighted by a litany of setbacks as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, but data shows it has benefited hugely from the sudden surge in demand for travel following the government’s lifting of the final restrictions in March.

About six million people used the airport in August, up from 2.2 million in August 2021.

The figure for last month remained below the pre-coronavirus total of 7.7 million in August 2019.

Chronic staff shortages led to Heathrow introducing a cap on the number of passengers airlines could serve in July, and last month it was extended until October.

The move led to a backlash from carriers keen to take advantage of the surge in travellers looking to book, and resulted in a row with Emirates. The dispute was eventually resolved but marked a major shift in the airport's relations with airlines.

Bosses of the UK’s busiest airport argue the limit of 100,000 daily passengers is essential to ensure passengers can avoid the chaos seen earlier this year when people were forced to queue for hours or had their flights cancelled.

But airlines say it is simply unacceptable for Heathrow to dictate such conditions for airlines who pay hefty prices for landing slots.

Heathrow did not comment on its latest traffic figures due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The UK is observing a period of national mourning for the 96-year-old monarch, who died on Thursday.

Airlines have been forced to cancel thousands of flights to keep schedules in line with Heathrow’s cap.

British Airways, the UK’s flag carrier airline which has its main base at the airport, has cancelled 629 short-haul round trips up to October 29. Around 5,000 BA short-haul flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City Airport have also been cancelled over the winter period – around 8 per cent of BA’s flights up to March 2023. The airline cited a lower than expected demand for winter flights as a reason.

BA flight capacity has been reduced overall by around 13 per cent between May and October this year.

Those whose flights had been axed would be contacted and offered an alternative flight or a refund, the airline said.

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Updated: September 12, 2022, 8:51 AM