Thursday, December 1, 2022

Heathrow Airport says passenger cap has eased travel chaos

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LONDON – London’s Heathrow Airport said on Thursday its cap on passenger numbers is easing a travel crisis that has led to flight cancellations and lost luggage as surging demand for summer travel comes up against pandemic-era staff shortages.

Britain’s busiest airport has limited the daily number of departing passengers to 100,000 until September 11 and asked airlines to stop selling tickets and cut flights, prompting criticism. The border has reduced last-minute flight cancellations and improved baggage delivery and on-time boarding, Heathrow said in a statement.

The airport said it has employed 1,300 people and that the number of security screeners is at pre-pandemic levels, allowing 88% of passengers to pass through checkpoints within 20 minutes.

“Passengers are seeing better and more reliable journeys since the introduction of demand capping,” said airport CEO John Holland-Kaye. “This has only been possible because of the collective and determined efforts of the airport, the airline and the wider Team Heathrow teams.”

The surge in travelers after two years of COVID-19 travel restrictions has overwhelmed airports and airlines, which had laid off thousands of workers during the height of the pandemic.

Heathrow has been the frequent scene of chaos this summer, with long security queues and technical glitches with the baggage system resulting in huge piles of lost and undeclared luggage. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has also been hit hard and has imposed a passenger restriction.

In London, Heathrow passenger restrictions caused British Airways to temporarily suspend sales of short-haul flights to destinations within the UK and Europe earlier this month.

The CEO of Ryanair, a budget carrier that flies out of other London airports, accused Heathrow of “mismanagement” in an interview with the BBC published on Thursday. Michael O’Leary said he had “very little sympathy” for airports because they know schedules months ahead of time and security workers don’t need as much training as pilots.

Heathrow said the promotion of airline ground crews to service aircraft was key to easing the passenger limit and that it had launched a review to that end.

He added that more than 6 million passengers traveled through Heathrow last month and 16 million are expected between July and September.

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