British Airways flights: airline stops selling tickets for short-haul flights from Heathrow

The suspension of ticket sales is to comply with Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers

British Airways has suspended selling short-haul flights from Heathrow for at least a week.

The decision comes after tens of thousands flights have already been cancelled over the summer as the industry struggles to cope with demand for air travel amid staffing shortages.

British Airways has suspended selling short-haul flights from Heathrow for at least a week (Photo: Getty Images)

The airline has said the move to stop new ticket sales for domestic and European services until and including Monday (8 August) is to comply with Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers.

In a statement, British Airways said: “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximise rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”

The move means thousands of seats will be removed from sale and could potentially push up flight ticket prices on rival firms.

Cap on passengers until September

The suspension of ticket sales comes after Heathrow announced last month that no more than 100,000 daily departing passengers are permitted until 11 September.

The cap, which came into effect  on 12 July, amounts to a cut of 4,000 passengers per day. Airlines had originally planned to operate flights with a daily capacity averaging 104,000 seats during the busy summer period, according to Heathrow.

Heathrow has ordered airlines to “stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers”.

The airport said: “On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.

“We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.

“But this is the right thing to do to provide a better, more reliable journey and to keep everyone working at the airport safe.”

Heathrow insisted the capacity cap is “in line with limits implemented at other airports” and said airlines have “discretion as to how they implement this in their individual schedules”.

British Airways earlier responded to Heathrow’s cap by announcing it would cancel 10,300 flights until October, with one million passengers affected.

Meanwhile, Emirates last month rejected the airport’s order to cancel flights to comply with the cap and accused Heathrow of showing “blatant disregard for consumers” by attempting to force it to “deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers”.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said at the time it would be “disappointing” if “any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey”.

Virgin Atlantic also criticised the airport’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures which are contributing to the chaos.

Many passengers flying to and from Heathrow have suffered severe disruption in recent months, with long security queues and baggage system breakdowns.

Airlines accused of ‘harmful practices’

Last month, airlines were accused of “harmful practices” in their treatment of passengers affected by disruption.

The Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority issued a joint letter to carriers, expressing concern that “consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations”.

The letter stated: “We are concerned that some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices.”

These include selling more tickets for flights “than they can reasonably expect to supply”, not always “fully satisfying obligations” to offer flights on alternative airlines to passengers affected by cancellations, and failing to give consumers “sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights”.

In the event flights are cancelled, airlines must offer to book passengers on an alternative route as close to the original arrival time as possible.

Passengers will be entitled to a full refund for cancelled flights but can only accept either a refund or a rebooking - not both.