Heathrow reports £ 321m loss after queues and flight cancellations | Heathrow airport

Heathrow airport has reported a £ 321m adjusted pretax loss for the first half of the year after weeks of lengthy queues and flight cancellations, with passenger numbers back at near pre-pandemic levels.

Britain’s busiest airport said the summer getaway had “started well”, despite recently announcing a daily cap of 100,000 passengers until early September after it struggled to cope with rebounding demand for travel.

The London hub blamed a lack of ground handling staff for recent weeks of travel chaos and lengthy delays for passengers, describing this as the “constraint on Heathrow’s capacity”.

The airport estimated that airlines were lacking about 30% of ground handling staff compared with before Covid, adding there had not been an increase in these workers since January.

“We have been raising our concerns over lack of handler resource for nine months,” Heathrow reported in its results. It added that from late June, as passenger numbers began to soar, it had experienced a “a worrying increase in unacceptable service levels for some passengers ”.

These problems included “an increase in delays to get planes on to stand, bags not traveling with passengers or being delivered very late to the baggage hall, low departure punctuality and some flights being canceled after passengers had boarded”.

Heathrow said the airport was busy during peak travel times, but any queues were “well managed and kept moving”.

Weeks of problems for air passengers have resulted in a blame game between airlines and airports. On Monday, the Ryanair chief financial officer, Neil Sorahan, criticised airports, saying they “had one job to do” to ensure they had sufficient handlers and security staff ..

Ryanair does not operate from Heathrow, but the airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said the accusation was “bizarre”.

“Airports don’t provide ground handling, that’s provided by the airlines themselves, so this is like accusing us of not having enough pilots,” Holland-Kaye told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Passengers don’t care about who is to blame, what they want is the good service and that’s why we have taken the decision on behalf of the whole community to make sure that we keep supply and demand in balance.”

Heathrow said it had hired 1,300 people in the past six months, adding that it would return to pre-pandemic levels of security staff by the end of July.

The airport said it remained loss-making and did not expect to pay any dividends to its shareholders for the rest of the year, but it was offsetting increased costs through higher charges.

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