Emirates says it will refuse to comply with a request by London’s Heathrow airport to slash passenger numbers because the airport is struggling with staff shortages and baggage screening issues. In a stinging rebuke, the Dubai-based airline said Heathrow’s problems were down to its own “incompetence” and that the airport failed to heed warnings of a rebound in passenger demand.
In a lengthy statement that blasted Heathrow’s “cavalier” management team, Emirates said it had been given just 36 hours’ notice of the impending capacity cap and claimed Heathrow gave it a list of flights that it should offload booked passengers from.
“With blatant disregard for consumers, they (Heathrow airport) wish to force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones,” the airline swiped.
London is one of Emirates’ most important markets and the airline currently serves Heathrow with six daily flights on its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo. Combined, the six double-deck aircraft have capacity for more than 3,000 passengers in a standard three-class layout.
Emirates says nearly all of its flights from London Heathrow are fully booked over the next few weeks and rebooking passengers through other airports would be almost impossible.
The airline has outright rejected a suggestion that it could simply move its flights to another airport which isn’t suffering capacity constraints. Adding to the complexity is the fact that more than two-thirds of passengers are connecting through Dubai to other flights and their connections would be totally messed up.
“The bottomline is, the LHR management team are cavalier about travellers 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,” a statement from the obviously furious airline continued.
“LHR chose not to act, not to plan, not to invest. Now faced with an ‘airmageddon’ situation due to their incompetence and non-action, they are pushing the entire burden – of costs and the scramble to sort the mess – to airlines and travellers.”
Last week, Emirates attempted to reassure consumers after months of travel scare stories making headlines around the world. The airline announced it had ‘secured’ its schedule for the rest of the summer and had enough ground handlers in place at all of its outstations.
At Heathrow, ground handling services for Emirates are handled by Dnata which is part of the wider Emirates Group. On Thursday, Emirates again confirmed that its operation at Heathrow was “fully ready and capable of handling our flights”.
Heathrow has asked airlines to cut passenger numbers in order to meet a capacity cap of 100,000 passengers per day until September. In some cases, Heathrow is demanding airlines stop selling any new tickets, while in the case of Emirates it is alleged the airport wants passengers removed from flights.
Heathrow’s largest airline, British Airways has already slashed its summer schedule after suffering its own staffing woes but chief executive Sean Doyle has expressed his frustration that other airlines haven’t followed suit.
“The shareholders of London Heathrow should scrutinise the decisions of the LHR management team,” the Emirates statement continued. Despite an alleged threat of legal action, Emirates said it “plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.