London’s Heathrow Airport has extended its 100,000 daily departing passenger cap to the end of October.
The airport’s bosses said the extension is needed to cope with ongoing staff shortages and a busy October travel period, which will include school half-term holidays.
Heathrow introduced the passenger cap in July and, initially, said it would run to September 11. The cap will now run until October 29.
However, the airport will regularly review the situation and could lift the cap earlier if conditions improve.
“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver,” Heathrow chief commercial officer Ross Baker said.
While it is not the only European airport to introduce a limit on daily passenger departures, Heathrow has been one of the hardest hit hubs as a post-Covid surge in air travel demand has put pressure on under-staffed airports, which lost much of their resources during two years of inactivity.
The extension has been criticised. Consumer rights advocate ‘Which? Travel’ has warned that it will raise anxiety levels among holidaymakers over the possibility of cancelled flights. Virgin Atlantic said it is “disappointed” with the move, saying additional resources are becoming available every week.
While Heathrow had also asked airlines to stop selling new tickets departing the airport, British Airways this week restarted selling short-haul tickets on flights out of Heathrow.
The airline said, on Monday, there is no need to continue suspending sales as it can manage new ticket sales volumes while still working within Heathrow’s passenger number limitations.
BA said it will continue to work with Heathrow to provide certainty for customers and will also still limit seat availability out of Heathrow if necessary.
Last week, Heathrow bosses said the cap – which has also been criticised by airline industry group IATA – has worked in easing passenger chaos and has resulted in “better, more reliable journeys”.