British Airways has confirmed that it has started “limiting” the sale of tickets on some international flights to London Heathrow Airport over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The decision was made at the request of Heathrow in what appears to be a clear sign that the airport is preparing for chaotic scenes at immigration control points as Border Force officers prepare to go on strike for eight days.
Sources claim Heathrow asked all airlines serving the airport to stop selling tickets to London during the Border Force strikes, although British Airways is the only airline so far to have confirmed it is partly complying with the request.
The passenger cap runs from 23rd December through to the end of 31st December 2022 on a number of routes.
Searches for flights to Heathrow from various international destinations, including Paris, Dusseldorf and Barcelona, as well as farther-flung airports like New York JFK, Dallas and Toronto, show zero availability on many dates over the Christmas holidays.
Inventory on select flights has effectively been set to zero in order to prevent new bookings from being made, although flights can still be booked with other airlines operating to LHR on the same dates.
In some cases, flights are being sold on certain days over the holiday period, while restrictions have been imposed on other days.
For example, British Airways shows there is no availability on flights from Berlin to Heathrow between the 23rd and 25th of December and between the 28th and 30th of December during the periods of strike action by Border Force officers.
Flights from Heathrow are unaffected. A spokesperson for the airline said the decision would allow the carrier to run a “safe and efficient operation” during the strike period.
Everyone who has already booked a ticket will be able to travel as planned and in some cases, BA is offering tickets for flights on partner airlines, including Iberia and American Airlines. Heathrow Airport did not reply to a request to comment.
Border Force officers represented by the PCS union have announced eight days of strike action over the Christmas period, with the first walkout set to begin on 23rd December – the same date that inventory across BA’s route network appears to dry up suddenly.
Last week, Heathrow said it would allow airlines to operate a full flight schedule despite the threat of strike action at the border. A spokesperson for the airport reassured passengers that the “vast majority of travellers” would be unaffected by the strike but didn’t mention plans to cap passenger loads on inbound flights.
Heathrow was blasted by the airline industry over the summer after it forced carriers to cap loads due to staff shortages at the airport. Emirates was particularly frustrated with the bottleneck at Heathrow, although the airport eventually lifted the cap in October.
At the time, chief executive John Holland-Kaye suggested it might be necessary to reimpose the passenger cap over the Christmas holidays before being forced to back down.
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.