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Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 18 July 2022.
The impact of extreme heat in the UK this week on public health and infrastructure is likely to dominate the news over the coming days.
The Gatwick Express is suspended today and tomorrow. Other rail services are running at a reduced frequency and at revised times due to speed restrictions with strong advice not to travel.
The War Of Words Continues
The claim and counter-claim by airlines and Heathrow over travel disruption continues.
Last week Heathrow imposed a short notice cap on departing passenger numbers at the airport until 11 September. Ostensibly, Heathrow claimed it wanted to wait and see which airlines took advantage of the slot amnesty before issuing its demand.
The CAA and Department for Transport ordered Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye to provide an immediate explanation.
In the response seen by the Financial Times Heathrow again points the finger of blame at airlines and ground handling companies:
“We have been raising this issue with airlines and their ground handlers for several months now and have asked them to provide evidence to show they have the capacity to meet demand. Despite this, there has been no net increase of resource that we can see over the past six months, and no recruitment pipeline,”
The responses from airlines vary widely. BA and Virgin Atlantic are cautiously supportive of the cap, with both airlines cancelling flights.
Emirates, on the other hand, fired a public broadside at Heathrow. Whilst many European airlines handed back more than 20% of their slots under the amnesty, Emirates was one of many airlines in the Middle East not to.
Sir Tim Clarke and John Holland-Kaye were said to have held a “constructive” meeting on Friday morning. Though it was not until late evening the two sides managed to release a short joint statement – a classic PR move to give the impression of a united front.
It has been suggested that for the rest of the summer airlines apply a cap to their load factors, rather than cancel flights. This would suggest that it is staffing at security that is the issue as cutting the number of aircraft movements would provide more relief to ground staff.
Airlines continue to brief against Heathrow. The Telegraph obtained correspondence from last year that airlines on the Heathrow Airline Operators’ Committee “were deeply concerned” about the airport’s planning for this summer.
Heathrow has been accused of ignoring repeated warnings from airlines that its passenger forecasts were wrong. It has been suggested Heathrow deliberately downplayed passenger numbers to secure a more favourable deal on passenger charges from the CAA.
John Holland-Kaye is the public face of Heathrow, but he is of course only doing the bidding of its shareholders who have yet to be called to account.
Back to the government’s role The Telegraph also reports airline and airports rejected a “demeaning and patronising” request by aviation minister Robert Courts to make a joint public pledge to “do everything in our control to minimise last minute cancellations”, cooperate with government and “put customers first”.
For passengers caught in the middle of all this, yesterday the government published a new Aviation Passenger Charter. There’s nothing new here, but it does serve as a single point of reference for passenger rights.
Parliament is in recess from this Friday, so there is unlikely to much parliamentary activity until September. If you’ve not had enough coverage of passenger disruption it is the subject of Panorama on BBC One tonight.
Also of interest this week:
Qantas publishes a rebuttal to claims that outsourcing its ground handling is the cause of its own operational issues. (Qantas)
News from London Air Travel you may have missed:
British Airways suspends London Gatwick – Manchester. (London Air Travel)
Virgin Atlantic unveils its cabins for the Airbus A330neo aircraft. (London Air Travel)
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
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