London’s Heathrow Airport has formally apologised to passengers for unacceptable levels of service in recent weeks; where the airport – like many others – has creaked under the pressure of a surge in post-Covid travel demand clashing with a widely under-resourced industry.
Heathrow’s bosses said the airport witnessed “unprecedented growth” in passenger numbers over the last four months, with nearly six million passengers travelling through Heathrow in June – taking the total to 25 million people for the first half of the year as a whole.
However, Heathrow – one of the busiest airports in Europe – also said its service levels have fallen short as business has returned.
“Despite our best efforts, there have been periods in recent weeks, where service levels have not been acceptable, with long queue times, delays for passengers with reduced mobility, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, and we want to apologise to any passengers who have been affected by this,” Heathrow said in a trading statement.
“Rebuilding capacity quickly is very challenging after the significant reductions in resource across the entire aviation supply chain. Arrivals punctuality is very low as a result of delays at other airports and airspace congestion across Europe and this has compounded the challenge of resource constraints for the airport, airlines, ground handlers and government agencies,” the airport went on to say.
“In spite of this, we have been able to provide a good level of service for the vast majority of passengers,” it added.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Last month, we saw exponential growth in passenger numbers as nearly six million people got away – the equivalent of 40 years of growth in just four months.”
“I am very proud of the way that our team is rising to the challenge of growth and giving excellent service to the vast majority of passengers. However, we have already seen times recently when demand exceeds the capacity of the airport, airlines and ground handlers,” he said.
“We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the [British] Government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary. We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey,” Mr Holland-Kaye said.
Heathrow started recruiting – back in November last year – in anticipation of capacity recovering this summer. It said that by the end of this month it will have as many people working in security as it had pre-pandemic.
It also recently reopened Terminal 4 to provide more space for passengers.