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Heathrow Airport Announces Passenger Cap For Summer Peak

BIFA shares the following statement released by Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye, due to the knock on effect this will have on air cargo.

"We have made the difficult decision to put in place a cap of around 100,000 daily departing passengers at Heathrow, between 12 July to 11 September. This is to ensure we can safely serve those travelling from our airport, while keeping colleagues across Team Heathrow safe as we all work to help passengers on their way this summer.  

Why we are making this decision  

We started recruiting back in November last year in anticipation of capacity recovering this summer, and by the end of July, we will have as many people working in security as we had pre-pandemic. We have also reopened and moved 25 airlines into Terminal 4 to provide more space for passengers and grown our passenger service team.     

New colleagues across Team Heathrow are learning fast but are not yet up to full speed. Meanwhile, there are some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced, in particular ground handlers.We know they are doing the very best they can with the resources available and we are giving them as much support possible. However, this remains a  significant constraint to the airport's overall capacity which we cannot ignore.  

Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, 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. This is due to a combination of reduced arrivals punctuality (as a result of delays at other airports and in European airspace) and increased passenger numbers starting to exceed the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers and the airport. Team Heathrow colleagues are going above and beyond to get as many passengers away as possible, but we cannot put them at risk for their own safety and wellbeing.    

Last month, the DfT and CAA wrote to the sector asking us all to review our plans for the summer and ensure we were prepared to manage expected passenger levels safely and minimise further disruption. Ministers subsequently implemented a slot amnesty programme to encourage airlines to remove flights from their schedules with no penalty. We held off putting additional controls on passenger numbers until this amnesty process concluded last Friday and we had a clearer view of the reductions that airlines have made.     

Some airlines have taken significant action, but others have not. As a result,we believe that further action is needed now to ensure passengers have a safe and reliable journey.  We have therefore made the difficult decision to introduce a capacity cap.  Similar measures to control passenger demand have been implemented at other airports both in the UK and around the world.   

How will this impact on passengers?   

Our assessment is that the maximum number of daily departing passengers that airlines, airline ground handlers and the airport can collectively serve over the summer is around 100,000. The latest forecasts indicate that even despite the amnesty, daily departing seats 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, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.   

By making this intervention now, our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags. We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we will be apologising to those whose travel plans are affected.    

I want to thank you for everything you have been doing to help our passengers have the smoothest possible journey through our airport. By working together with each other and our Team Heathrow colleagues we can deliver a safe summer for all."

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