Heathrow Asks Airlines To Stop Selling Summer Tickets

Heathrow Asks Airlines To Stop Selling Summer Tickets

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This is turning out to be an unprecedented summer of travel, and both airlines and airports are struggling to deal with the increase in demand. Heathrow Airport, one of Europe’s busiest hubs, has realized that more needs to be done to reduce the number of travelers.

The airport has now gone so far as to add a daily passenger cap, and to ask airlines to stop selling tickets for the rest of summer.

Heathrow has more passengers than it can handle

John Holland-Kaye, the CEO of Heathrow, has written an open letter about what the airport needs to do in order to manage the passenger experience over the next couple of months.

Heathrow Airport has seen the number of daily travelers exceeding 100,000 in recent weeks, and this has caused a drop in service levels that the airport operator no longer finds acceptable. Specifically, Heathrow is experiencing long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not traveling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality, and last minute cancelations.

This is primarily attributed to the number of travelers exceeding the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport. The airport claims that it has seen 40 years of passenger growth in just four months. I’d argue that’s a bit disingenuous, but I get the point.

While the airport started recruiting for more staff back in November 2021, that’s not an instant process, and there’s a general challenge with getting workers. It’s claimed that by the end of July, Heathrow will have as many people working in security as pre-pandemic. However, that might not be enough, and similarly, more workers are needed in other functions as well, especially ground handlers.

Heathrow claims that the current number of travelers is putting at risk the safety and wellbeing of staff, so it’s time to take action.

Heathrow Airport has more travelers than it can handle

Heathrow adds passenger cap, asks airlines to stop selling tickets

What’s Heathrow doing to manage its lack of reliability? The airport is adding new passenger caps for the remainder of the summer travel period, which is between July 12 and September 11, 2022. Specifically:

  • The airport can handle an average of at most 100,000 passengers per day while providing a decent experience
  • The latest forecast shows that without further intervention, Heathrow will see an average of 104,000 travelers per day
  • Heathrow believes that an average of 101,500 seats have already been sold to passengers for the remainder of summer, meaning airlines have sold more tickets than the airport can accommodate
  • As a result, Heathrow has asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets to & from the airport, to limit the impact on passengers

While Heathrow is asking airlines to stop selling tickets, I don’t think we’ll actually see that happen. Often last minute tickets are the most expensive, and airlines don’t want to give up that revenue. Airlines want to operate flights more efficiently, so I think it’s much more likely that we see airlines cut frequencies rather than just no longer selling flights that aren’t booked out.

I would imagine airlines are being given more specific guidance about what they need to do beyond just this open letter. I’d imagine the instructions aren’t actually to stop selling seats, but rather to take whatever steps they can to cap the total number of people they’re carrying.

I doubt airlines will actually stop selling tickets

Bottom line

Heathrow Airport has acknowledged that it can’t handle the number of travelers forecasted to travel through the airport in the next couple of months. The airport is anticipating an average of 104,000 daily travelers, and believes that an average of 101,500 daily travelers are currently booked.

The airport is asking airlines to cap travelers at an average of 100,000 per day. While the request is to stop selling tickets, I doubt that’s how this will play out in practice.

What do you make of Heathrow’s attempt to cap passenger numbers?

Conversations (19)
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  1. guflyer Guest

    Lucky,
    I would like to know what your advice is for those of us who will be flying through LHR this summer with luggage.

    One issue that I ran into at a different European airport (LIS) is that although the airline advised us to arrive three hours early, the baggage check-in was not open until closer to two hours, meaning that it was still a mess, with people barely making their flight despite arriving...

    Lucky,
    I would like to know what your advice is for those of us who will be flying through LHR this summer with luggage.

    One issue that I ran into at a different European airport (LIS) is that although the airline advised us to arrive three hours early, the baggage check-in was not open until closer to two hours, meaning that it was still a mess, with people barely making their flight despite arriving early, as the airline waiting to open the check-in made there no good solution. How would you work your way around this?

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      “ I would like to know what your advice is for those of us who will be flying through LHR this summer with luggage.”

      Option 1: Don’t check luggage.
      Option 2: Prayer

  2. Eskimo Guest

    Can I get a refund on LHR / UK taxes and fees because you suck.

  3. Santos Guest

    We gonna act like LHR wasn't a total nightmare before the pandemic?

  4. Tim Dunn Diamond

    another source that American imposed a non-rev travel embargo at AMS. Can anyone confirm if that is true?
    If airlines add LHR - since presumably every passenger counts - airline operations will suffer.

    As noted, there needs to be a prolonged legal battle until after September when this was proposed to end.

    Governments that can't do their most basic functions - including holding airport operators accountable - need to be replaced.

    People...

    another source that American imposed a non-rev travel embargo at AMS. Can anyone confirm if that is true?
    If airlines add LHR - since presumably every passenger counts - airline operations will suffer.

    As noted, there needs to be a prolonged legal battle until after September when this was proposed to end.

    Governments that can't do their most basic functions - including holding airport operators accountable - need to be replaced.

    People are increasingly fed up with 2 years of things not working but we're going to charge you more for it

    1. UA-NYC Guest

      Breaking news: Heathrow asks Delta to double ticket sales ATL/JFK/MSP-LHR due to the airline being 100% unicorns and rainbows.

  5. Icarus Guest

    Indeed the only way to reduce numbers is to cut flights on city pairs with multiple frequencies. That will impact BA the most

  6. Icarus Guest

    Airlines should then sue the airport authority as KLM is apparently currently doing at schiphol in order to recoup losses

  7. Tim Dunn Diamond

    I'm not even sure that Heathrow can legally tell foreign carriers not to sell their flights to capacity unless the UK renegotiates their treaties with other countries.
    The complete irony is that LHR has some of the highest passenger and airline charges of any large airport in the world.
    If they can't staff the operation, then they need to dramatically cut their fees.

    But let's also not forget that the Netherlands used...

    I'm not even sure that Heathrow can legally tell foreign carriers not to sell their flights to capacity unless the UK renegotiates their treaties with other countries.
    The complete irony is that LHR has some of the highest passenger and airline charges of any large airport in the world.
    If they can't staff the operation, then they need to dramatically cut their fees.

    But let's also not forget that the Netherlands used covid as an excuse to permanently lower AMS' capacity.

  8. Belinda Guest

    Open up Japan and Hong Kong then some travelers will go there. I have time off to go to Europe but the lines/operations sound crazy. So going to Vegas .

    1. Kevin B Guest

      This! I have been really dying to get back to Japan, but I cannot handle organized tours. I am too much of a control freak.

    2. Watson Gold

      @Kevin: Don't worry - that doesn't make you a control freak. Organized tours are usually sh*t. You're always dealing with that one person/family who just doesn't have it together, and your entire experience will be shaped by your luck of the draw of the guide.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Agreed. Had some friends who'd saved for 5yrs to go on their dream safari, but still had to take a semi-private tour as private was outside of their budget.

      They end up getting paired with this idiot who apparently couldn't comprehend the fact that lions must kill to eat...... she saw them making a kill, and started screeching at the top of her lungs that they all needed to go "save" the antelope (or...

      Agreed. Had some friends who'd saved for 5yrs to go on their dream safari, but still had to take a semi-private tour as private was outside of their budget.

      They end up getting paired with this idiot who apparently couldn't comprehend the fact that lions must kill to eat...... she saw them making a kill, and started screeching at the top of her lungs that they all needed to go "save" the antelope (or whatever it was). And half-hour later she was still crying so loudly that they all decided to abandon the tour and return to the lodge.

  9. Alian Guest

    Can the airlines get a refund for their ridiculously expensive landing rights at LHR then?

    They make it so expensive of course airlines will make it a point sell more. This their problem of charging so much and now they can’t keep up to their end of the bargain.

  10. Creditcrunch Diamond

    The other problem is Virgin consolidated its Gatwick operations at LHR during the pandemic and have no immediate plans to return, so that’s all of Virgin’s bucket and spade routes like the Caribbean & Orlando with multiple daily flights.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Ridiculous to blame anything on that. Particularly since capacity to/from Asia is way down. Just poor planning by the facility.

  11. Eli Guest

    Had my mother flying from JFK-LHR on Sunday with Virgin she told me Heathrow look like after a war
    she waited 2 hours for the bags to come out

  12. R B Guest

    End of June: I misconnected in LHR, resulting in my first missed flight in over 5 years.
    Reason: there was no staff working the jetway gate. It took us 30 minutes to deplane.
    So I agree that HAL should take extreme measures to address the staffing issues.

    1. Jake Guest

      Not to be contrarian, but you realize this solution won’t solve the number of airplanes coming in, just a request that those same planes without enough staffing come in less full.

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Jake Guest

Not to be contrarian, but you realize this solution won’t solve the number of airplanes coming in, just a request that those same planes without enough staffing come in less full.

3
Watson Gold

@Kevin: Don't worry - that doesn't make you a control freak. Organized tours are usually sh*t. You're always dealing with that one person/family who just doesn't have it together, and your entire experience will be shaped by your luck of the draw of the guide.

1
guflyer Guest

Lucky, I would like to know what your advice is for those of us who will be flying through LHR this summer with luggage. One issue that I ran into at a different European airport (LIS) is that although the airline advised us to arrive three hours early, the baggage check-in was not open until closer to two hours, meaning that it was still a mess, with people barely making their flight despite arriving early, as the airline waiting to open the check-in made there no good solution. How would you work your way around this?

1
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