The Guardian has reported that British Airways (BA) has withdrawn domestic and European flights from sale at Heathrow Airport in the UK, as the airport has capped the number of departing passengers permitted to fly at 100,000 a day.
The passenger cap was instated to tackle widespread disruption, queues, baggage delays and cancellations that have occurred as the airport struggles with staffing issues. The airline’s tickets will be made available again on Monday, August 8, 2022. According to the Guardian, BA said the sales suspension was designed to enable existing customers to rebook flights when needed.
The airline said in a statement, “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximize rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”
However, other airlines, such as Emirates, have refused to comply with the passenger cap. On July 14, 2022, Emirates stated, “The LHR management team is cavalier about travelers and their airline customers. All the signals of a strong travel rebound were there, and for months Emirates has been publicly vocal about the matter. We planned ahead to get to a state of readiness to serve customers and travel demand, including rehiring and training 1,000 A380 pilots in the past year.”
It continued, “Now, with blatant disregard for consumers, [the LHR management team] wish to force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travelers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones. And this, during the super peak period with the upcoming UK holidays, and at a time when many people are desperate to travel after two years of [Covid-19] pandemic restrictions.”
In response, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority issued a joint letter to carriers on July 21. It said, “We are concerned that consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations and minimize flight disruptions throughout the summer and beyond. Some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices, including selling more tickets for flights than they can reasonably expect to supply and failing to warn consumers about the ensuing risk of cancellation; not always fully satisfying obligations to offer consumers rerouting (including with alternative carriers where necessary) in the event of a cancellation; and/or failing to give consumers sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights on cancellation, and/or to provide adequate and appropriate support and care where flights are canceled or disrupted.”
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport also experienced a fire less than a mile from its grounds, near Hatton Road in Feltham, west London. Approximately 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines were called to the site of the fire on Monday, August 1. The London Fire Brigade (LFB) told the Independent, “Around six hectares of land is alight. The fire is producing a large amount of smoke. Residents in the local area should keep their windows and doors closed.” The fire forced planes to navigate around this smoke to land at the airport.
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