London Heathrow has imposed a cap on daily passenger numbers across the airport with immediate effect.
Heathrow considers that the airport, its airlines and ground handlers do not have the capacity to handle more than 100,000 departing passengers a day.
Passenger numbers will be capped at this number with immediate effect until Sunday 11 September 2022.
Heathrow has also asked airlines to stop selling tickets for this period.
Heathrow has cited the fact that when passengers have exceeded this number passengers have experienced long queues, delays and short notice cancellations.
The airport points the finger of blame at primarily at airlines and ground handling agents for not having sufficient staff. That said, there have also been baggage system failures at Terminals 2 & 3 which is within the control of Heathrow. As is staffing at security.
The Cap Is Well Short Of Previous Summer Peaks
The airport says projected departing passenger numbers this summer are on average 104,000 a day.
This leads to an excess of 4,000 passengers a day, but with only 1,500 seats already sold. The average number will clearly vary widely by day over the summer.
The cap imposed by Heathrow is significantly lower than peak summer passenger numbers before COVID-19.
On the airport’s busiest ever day, 4 August 2019, it handled 262,000 passengers in total. Passenger numbers regularly exceeded 250,000 a day in total in the summer peak before COVID-19.
More Flight Cancellations Are Likely
Heathrow says it will be for individual airlines to decide to respond to the cap, either by cancelling & consolidating flights or capping seats on specific flights.
The capacity cap has been imposed despite the fact that a large number of airlines have taken advantage of the UK government’s slot amnesty.
Under this slot amnesty, 23,968 flights have been cancelled out of 151,239 slots. British Airways accounts for the vast majority of these with 17,419 cancellations out of its portfolio of 79,811 slots.
Airlines in Europe have also primarily taken advantage of the slot amnesty. These include Aer Lingus, Eurowings, Flybe, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa and SAS.
A large number of airlines outside of Europe have either not taken advantage of the amnesty, or made minimal cancellations. Airlines that have not used the amnesty include those in the Middle East and Asia such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines.