British Airways suspends the sale of short-haul flights from Heathrow


British Airways’ planes
Scott Barbour

LONDON — British Airways suspended the sale of short-haul flight tickets departing from London’s Heathrow after the airport asked airlines to limit new bookings.

In a statement Tuesday, the airline said the move was taken in response to Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers.

“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 statement read.

The suspension was initially announced to last until Aug 8, but this was extended just a few hours later to Aug. 15.

Shares of British Airways parent IAG were 0.2% lower on Tuesday afternoon.

Heathrow Airport said it was happy its biggest airline followed the request: “We are pleased to see action from British Airways, acting responsibly and also putting passengers first.”

Europe’s biggest airport by passenger numbers announced on July 12 that it would impose a cap of 100,000 daily departing passengers as the airline industry continues to face a host of challenges.

Luggage hasn’t made it to the correct destinations, masses of staff have staged walkouts and pilots are in an “absolute mess” as they try to cover team shortages, according to industry insiders.

Heathrow said its decision to restrict traveler numbers was taken “in the best interests of passengers” to provide “better, more reliable journeys this summer.”

The capacity cap will be in place until Sep. 11.

There were between 110,000 and 125,000 daily passenger departures from Heathrow in July and August 2019.

The U.K.’s second-biggest airport, Gatwick, told CNBC that it would be “up to airlines to cancel or suspend flights” but it was currently “unaware of any airlines planning similar moves.”

The rest of Europe

Europe’s third-biggest airport, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, also announced a number of passenger caps through the summer.

“The purpose of setting a maximum is to ensure the safety of passengers and employees and to create a reliable process at the airport,” the airport said in a statement.

“All efforts are focused on keeping the consequences for travellers to a minimum.”

At present, a maximum of 73,000 passengers are able to depart from the Dutch airport, but that number will drop to 67,500 in September. This will then increase to 69,500 in October.

A spokesperson from Germany’s largest airport, Frankfurt am Main, told CNBC there “are no plans to cap the numbers of passengers or flights” but there is “constant and intensive exchange with [its] partners at Frankfurt Airport to be best prepared for the ongoing summer traffic.”

The country’s second-biggest airport, Munich, is in a similar position and told CNBC there are “neither plans nor intentions” to reduce its passenger numbers.

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