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Heathrow Becomes Second Major European Airport to Artificially Cap Passenger Numbers

Heathrow Becomes Second Major European Airport to Artificially Cap Passenger Numbers

Heathrow Airport has become the second major European airport that has ordered airlines to artificially cap the number of passengers onboard flights over the next two months to prevent potentially dangerous overcrowding in its terminals.

The West London airport reportedly wants to slash the number of passengers passing through Terminal 5, the largest of only four terminals at Heathrow, by as many as 1,200 passengers per hour between the hours of 5 am and 6 pm.

The capacity cut is the equivalent of nearly nine Airbus A319 aircraft operated by British Airways which is based out of Terminal 5. The airport has reportedly blamed delays at check-in rather than at its understaffed security checkpoints for the capacity cut.

British Airways has admitted problems at its check-in desks but chief executive Sean Doyle says many of the delays are unavoidable because of time-consuming pandemic paperwork checks.

The airline is trying to recruit new ground staff with the lure of a £1,000 sign-on bonus, although calls to ease post-Brexit immigration rules to bring in cheaper foreign labour have been roundly rejected by the UK’s Conservative government.

“Without a reduction in demand, the operation would not be considered safe,” Heathrow airport said in comments reported by The Times.

Problems have been amplified at Terminal 5 because airlines were consolidated into fewer buildings during the pandemic. Terminal 4 was closed at the beginning of the pandemic and is only due to reopen later this month.

Qatar Airways is set to move from its temporary home at Terminal 5 on June 14, releasing a huge swathe of space back to British Airways.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has been urging airlines to cap passenger numbers over the past few weeks due to delays at its security checkpoints. The airport has been granted the right to cut landing and takeoff rights to certain airlines “which serve like a lock on the door.”

The restrictions will be in force from June 1 to August 28 as part of a package of measures to reduce crowding at Schiphol.

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