HomeTravel NewsHeathrow Airport Limits Daily Passenger Numbers to 100,000

Heathrow Airport Limits Daily Passenger Numbers to 100,000

London’s Heathrow Airport has introduced a daily limit of 100,000 passengers departing the airport until September 11 in a bid to ease customer chaos.

Heathrow has asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets to and from the airport to limit the impact on passengers.

It said the cap will provide for “better, more reliable summer journeys”.  

Earlier this week, Heathrow – one of the busiest airports in Europe – formally apologised to passengers for what it called unacceptable levels of service in recent weeks.

Like many other airports, it has been creaking under the pressure of a surge in post-Covid travel demand clashing with a widely under-resourced industry.

Heathrow saw “unprecedented” growth in passenger numbers in the past four months, with nearly 6 million people travelling through its terminals in June alone.

London Heathrow Terminal 5

It started recruiting, last November, 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.

In an open letter to passengers on the capacity cap, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “New colleagues are learning fast but are not yet up to full speed. However, there are some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced, in particular ground handlers, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft. They are doing the very best they can with the resources available and we are giving them as much support possible, but this is a significant constraint to the airport’s overall capacity.”  

Heathrow said that by imposing the passenger limit now, it is boosting its chances of protecting flights for the vast majority of of passengers this summer.

“We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected,” Mr Holland-Kaye said.  

In his letter, Mr Holland-Kaye added: “The airport will still be busy, as we are trying to get as many people away as possible, and we ask you to bear with us if it takes a little longer to check in, go through security or collect your bag than you are used to at Heathrow. We ask passengers to help, by making sure they have completed all their Covid requirements online before they come to the airport, by not arriving earlier than 3 hours before their flight, by being ready for security with laptops out of bags and liquids, aerosols and gels in a sealed 100ml plastic bag, and by using e-gates in immigration where eligible.”  

He said that as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, over the past few weeks, “we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations.”

The latest forecasts indicate that even despite the amnesty, daily departing seats from Heathrow over the summer will average 104,000 – giving a daily excess of 4,000 seats. On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, leading the airline to ask airlines to stop selling.

Geoff Percival
Geoff Percival
Geoff has worked in business, news, consumer and travel journalism for more than 25 years; having worked for and contributed to the likes of The Irish Examiner, Business & Finance, Business Plus, The Sunday Times, The Irish News, Senior Times, and The Sunday Tribune.


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