Heathrow Airport has warned it will ask airlines to cancel more flights this summer if it does not believe previous schedule reductions will sufficiently reduce travel disruption.
Airlines were ordered to make sure their timetables are “deliverable” by the government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last month following delays and waves of cancellations during the Platinum Jubilee half-term school holidays.
What has Heathrow said?
Heathrow admitted that the punctuality of arriving flights is “very low” and there have been “periods in recent weeks where service levels have not been acceptable”, including long queue times and bags not travelling with passengers, or arriving late.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We have already seen times recently when demand exceeds the capacity of the airport, airlines and ground handlers.
“We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary.
“We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey.”
The airport admitted that rebuilding flight capacity quickly is “very challenging” after the Covid pandemic has significantly reduced staff resources “across the entire aviation supply chain”.
Problems with the punctuality of arrivals are due to airspace congestion and delays at other airports which has “compounded the challenge of resource constraints for the airport, airlines, ground handlers and government agencies”.
Heathrow issued an apology to “any passengers who have been affected” by disruption, but added that it has been able to provide “a good level of service for the vast majority of passengers”.
The number of passengers who travelled through Heathrow during the first half of the year was 26 million - more than six times higher than the same period in 2021.
Mr Holland-Kaye said the airport experienced “exponential growth” last month, with nearly six million passengers, and has recorded “the equivalent of 40 years of growth in just four months”.
He added: “I am very proud of the way that our team is rising to the challenge of growth, and giving excellent service to the vast majority of passengers.”
How is flight disruption being managed?
The government has issued a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer to help avoid a repeat of the chaos seen at UK airports during the Easter and Jubilee holidays.
The action plan includes encouraging airlines to make sure their schedules are “deliverable”, an amnesty on slot rules and allowing new aviation workers to start training before passing security checks.
A new passenger charter will also be published in the coming weeks, providing passengers with a “one-stop guide” informing them of their rights and what they can expect from airports and airlines when flying.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions.
“While it’s never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we’ve been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.
“It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half-term.
“With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there’s simply no excuse for widespread disruption.”