BA restricts sales for Heathrow short-haul flights for rest of summer | British Airways

British Airways will restrict sales for short-haul flights from Heathrow all summer, with no more tickets for departures before 15 August, in an attempt to head off further disruption and flight cancellations.

The unprecedented move by BA comes in response to the London airport’s cap on passengers, limiting total numbers to 100,000 a day, after staff shortages led to long queues, flight delays and problems with baggage earlier this year.

The airline said it was taking “responsible action” which would build resilience, and that suspending its sales of seats to domestic and European destinations would also allow existing customers to re-book flights as needed.

BA canceled more than 10,000 summer flights last month but will not be removing any further departures from the schedule under the new plans, and no existing bookings will be affected.

After 15 August, the airline plans to restrict sales “dynamically” rather than with a blanket ban, but expects to continue to limit available seats for busier days and periods throughout the summer. It said the measures would protect existing bookings and help manage any disruption due to other factors, such as adverse weather or air traffic restrictions.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We took pre-emptive action to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans and to build more resilience into our operation, given the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.

“When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we took a small number of additional flights from our schedule. And to continue to comply with the cap, we’ve been taking responsible action by limiting sales, or all the available fares, on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available to re-book customers.

“We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the Heathrow imposed cap so we can get our customers away as planned this summer.”

Airlines and airports across Britain and Europe have struggled to cope with the rebound in travel after the pandemic, with many still unable to recruit enough staff, particularly in ground handling services such as check-in and baggage.

Heathrow said it now has as many people employed in security as in 2019, and that 80% of passengers will clear security within 20 minutes or less. But Heathrow added that its airlines, which are responsible for hiring or contracting ground staff, do not have enough people to manage.

It told airlines to limit the number of tickets they sell over the summer after it capped the number of passengers passing through the airport at 100,000 a day to limit queues. Another carrier, Emirates, which initially resisted the order, has now agreed to cap sales along with BA.

Despite the cap, an average of more than 100,000 people a day have taken off over the first 10 days of the UK summer holidays, Heathrow said. Over one million people took flights in the airport’s busiest period for departures since Christmas 2019, with New York, Los Angeles and Dubai the main routes.

Heathrow said the high proportion of occasional leisure travelers unfamiliar with the airport and current documentation requirements was slowing progress at check-in desks and security. Delays were caused by people ignoring rules banning liquids above 100ml in hand luggage, while airport queues were exacerbated by anxious passengers arriving more than three hours before departure, before check-ins had opened.

Chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe, said Heathrow was keen to operate without a cap as soon as possible, but it would require airlines to have sufficient ground handling resources.

She said: “The airport has struggled to cope as passenger volumes increased beyond the collective capacity of companies across the airport to serve them. This resulted in an unacceptable 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.

“The cap has slightly reduced passenger numbers, bringing them into line with available resources, and as a result, is already resulting in better, more reliable journeys for passengers.”

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