Posted Jul 20, 2022, 11:21 AM
Endless queues, lost luggage, canceled or delayed flights… The post-Covid recovery of air traffic is turning into chaos at European airports, faced with strikes and a shortage of staff. London-Heathrow airport, one of the largest in Europe, is not spared and wants to remedy the lack of staff by limiting the daily number of departing passengers.
The London “hub” will therefore cap the number of departing passengers at 100,000 per day until September 11, while the airport was planning a daily average of 104,000 passengers. The message is clear, “we are asking airlines to stop selling tickets for this summer to limit the impact on passengers,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye announced in an open letter on July 12. .
Ensuring a “safe and reliable” trip
The general manager of London airport, however, ensures that Heathrow recruited staff last November to absorb the recovery in demand. But “some essential airport functions are still understaffed”, including ground staff responsible for, for example, checking in passengers or loading and unloading baggage from an aircraft.
Some airlines had already begun to slim down their flight schedule. The rules around take-off and landing slots have also been relaxed by the British government so that companies can cancel flights without losing their “slots”. But other companies have “not taken significant measures”, regrets in his letter John Holland-Kaye, who assures that the capacity reductions will ensure passengers a “safe and reliable” trip.
Virulent Emirates protest
The announcement sparked a standoff between London airport and Emirates, the largest carrier in the Middle East. The latter had initially refused to lighten its schedule, criticizing “the incompetence and inaction” of the airport. In a virulent press release, the company had blasted an “unreasonable and unacceptable” request. After discussions, Emirates finally said it was ready to “work with the airport” during the last two weeks of July. The company has also capped ticket sales from Heathrow until mid-August, without canceling any flights.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (Iiata), also criticized Heathrow’s decision, accusing the airport of being unprepared and prioritizing profits over airlines, reports the Reuters agency. Other major companies, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have however complied with the requirements of the airport.
Amsterdam and London-Gatwick also affected
Heathrow is not the first airport to implement such a measure. In mid-June, the Amsterdam-Schipol “hub” had also announced that it would introduce a maximum number of travelers per day, due to the lack of security guards. London-Gatwick airport had announced that it would limit the number of scheduled flights.
Finally, Frankfurt airport, the first in Germany, has announced that it wants to reduce hourly rotations this summer, also due to a lack of staff. Lufthansa had taken the lead in canceling nearly 6,000 flights scheduled for this summer from Munich and Frankfurt.