Heathrow to axe 100,000 daily passengers cap this month

The number of people leaving Europe’s biggest airport has been capped for all airlines since July

Passengers queue inside the departures terminal of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. Reuters
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Heathrow plans to lift a cap on passengers numbers, which was put in place to limit disruption due to staff shortages, later this month in a move that offers airlines the opportunity to meet market demand.

The number of people leaving Europe’s biggest airport has been capped at 100,000 a day since July.

The limit was imposed due to a staffing issues in several areas, including security, ground staff and baggage handling.

However, reports suggest that it will be lifted at the end of the month, when the summer flying season officially ends.

The summer cap led several airlines, including Etihad and Emirates, to make changes to their schedules after they were told to stop selling tickets to Heathrow to limit the impact on passengers.

Emirates initially refused to cut capacity, saying it would affect too many customers.

“We said we can't do that and we won't do that,” said Emirates president Sir Tim Clark, at a panel at Farnborough International Airshow last week.

However, the airline later agreed to stop selling tickets on flights until mid-August and made “capacity adjustments” on London Heathrow flights in order to “help ease operational pressures at the airport”.

Etihad also made changes, with flights taking off at different times to avoid periods of peak congestion.

The airport, which was once the world’s busiest before it was overtaken by Dubai International Airport, is currently operating at about 80 per cent of capacity, compared with 2019, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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No Christmas boost

A spokeswoman for Heathrow told The National the cap was always due to end in late October.

“We took necessary action in July to introduce a temporary capacity cap, which has since been extended through to the end of October,” said the spokeswoman.

“This cap resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations, better punctuality and shorter waits for bags. Our focus has always been on removing the cap as quickly as possible — but we will only do so if we are confident that adding in more passengers will not erode the service levels that the cap has secured.

“We continue to work with all of our airline partners ahead of the winter season to ensure a smooth operation for our passengers.”

It is understood capacity in winter will be managed via a different mechanism, which protects existing airline schedules, but restricts changes or additions to peak periods.

Fewer travellers fly over the winter but Christmas is peak travel season, with about 108,000 passengers a day flying out of airport in December.

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Updated: October 05, 2022, 5:08 AM
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