London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) has reportedly told airlines that it will end an artificial passenger cap that was imposed at the height of the busy summer season because of chronic staff shortages.
The Wall Street Journal cited anonymous internal sources who have been briefed on the matter and who confirmed the passenger cap would be lifted on schedule later this month.
The West London airfield first introduced the cap in July when it demanded airlines restrict capacity and even cancel some flights over fears that the airport could only safely handle around 100,000 passengers per day.
Heathrow said it hoped to lift the cap in September but was forced to extend the restrictions through to the end of the airline industry’s summer timetable in late October.
The passenger cap was welcomed by some airlines, in particular, British Airways which has faced its own well-publicised staff shortages throughout the summer. But other carriers, including Dubai-based Emirates, railed against the plans.
Emirates called the passenger cap “unreasonable and unacceptable” and threatened to ignore Heathrow’s request to limit capacity. The airline even branded Heathrow’s management as “cavalier” and warned that passengers faced “airmageddon” because of the airport’s “incompetence and non-action”.
In the end, the two sides somehow came to a truce and Emirates had to move some passengers onto services operating out of London Gatwick airport.
Rather than accepting blame for long security queues, the airport shifted the blame for the capacity cap onto the airlines. Heathrow accused them of failing to hire enough essential ground workers like baggage handlers, tug operators and check-in staff, and this was actually the root cause of the problems.
But while Heathrow is hoping to return to business as usual in the next few weeks, the same can’t be said for its rival European hub Amsterdam Schiphol. Last week, the beleaguered Dutch airport said it was extending a cap on locally departing passengers until April 2023 at the earliest.
Some of Schiphol’s troubles are still connected with its inability to hire enough security staff responsible for screening passengers and their hand baggage. The airport has blamed a tight labour market and has urged contracted security companies to improve pay and conditions for employees.
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.