London Heathrow Airport says passenger cap has eased travel chaos
London‘s Heathrow Airport said on Thursday its passenger limit was easing a travel slump that has led to flight cancellations and lost luggage, as growing demand for summer travel is hit by shortages of personnel in the era of the pandemic.
Britain’s busiest airport has capped daily departing passenger numbers at 100,000 until September 11 and asked airlines to stop selling tickets and cut flights, sparking criticism. The cap has reduced last-minute flight cancellations and improved baggage delivery and on-time planes, Heathrow said in a statement.
The airport said it hired 1,300 people and the number of security guards was at pre-pandemic levels, allowing 88% of travelers to pass through checkpoints within 20 minutes.
Passengers have enjoyed better and more reliable travel since the introduction of demand capping,” said airport CEO John Holland-Kaye. This was only possible through the collective and determined efforts of the airport, airline and wider teams of the Heathrow team.
Rising numbers of travelers after two years of COVID-19 travel restrictions have overwhelmed airports and airlines, which had laid off thousands of staff at the height of the pandemic.
Heathrow has been the scene of frequent chaos this summer, with long queues for security and technical issues with the baggage system leading to huge piles of lost and unclaimed luggage. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was also hit hard and imposed a passenger cap.
In London, Heathrow passenger limits led British Airways to temporarily suspend sales of short-haul flights to destinations in the UK and Europe earlier this month.
The CEO of Ryanair, a low-cost airline which flies to other London airports, accused Heathrow of “mismanagement” in a BBC interview published on Thursday. Michael O’Leary said he had very little sympathy for airports because they had known the timetables for months. ahead of time, and security guards don’t need as much training as pilots.
Heathrow said the build-up of airline ground crews and service planes is key to loosening the passenger cap and has launched a review to that end.
He added that more than 6 million passengers passed through Heathrow last month and 16 million are expected between July and September.
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