Heathrow Airport extends cap on passenger numbers to end of October to cope with travel demand
The airport initially said the cap on passengers would end in early September
It means the limit will remain in place for another six weeks until after the UK half-term holidays.
Under the cap, no more than 100,000 travellers can depart from the airport per day until 29 October.
This capacity limit was initially only meant to last until 11 September but has now been pushed back, with the move intended to enable more reliable passenger journeys.
It said the move was taken following an improvement in punctuality and fewer last-minute cancellations after introducing a temporary cap in July.
Heathrow chief commercial officer Ross Baker said: “Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel.
“That’s why we introduced temporary capacity limits in July which have already improved journeys during the summer getaway.
“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve.”
Capacity limits ‘under review’
The move to extend the cap comes after tens of thousands of flights have already been cancelled this summer as the industry struggles to cope with the demand for air travel amid staffing shortages.
Passengers flying to and from the UK’s busiest airport have faced severe disruption in recent months, with long security queues and baggage system breakdowns.
However, a temporary cap imposed by Heathrow in July resulted in “fewer last-minute cancellations” and “shorter waits for bags”, according to the airport.
Heathrow said the capacity limits would be kept under review and “could be lifted earlier should there be a sustained picture of better resilience and a material increase in resourcing levels”.
But consumer rights group Which? has warned the move will leave the plans of thousands of passengers in limbo.
Guy Hobbs, travel editor at the organisation, described the situation as a “mess” and urged the airport to provide clarity to holiday-makers about the flight schedule.
He said: “Though the extension of the passenger cap may help Heathrow prevent a repeat of the unacceptable last-minute cancellations we saw earlier in the summer, thousands of people will now be anxious about whether their travel plans could be scuppered.
“Heathrow and impacted airlines must act without delay to provide travellers with clarity on which flights are being cut, and airlines must ensure affected passengers are aware of their rights to rebooking or refunds.
“The aviation industry and the government need to ensure that this mess is sorted out as soon as possible – passenger caps cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”
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.