Heathrow has now extended its cap on passenger numbers to end not on September 11th as originally planned but instead 7 weeks later on October 29th. The cap will initially allow 1,000 daily flights between now and August 31st before a slight reduction in numbers to 950 daily flights throughout September and October.

The airport has blamed the cut in passenger numbers on a shortage of ground handler staff. This shortage has, in turn, been blamed on airlines. Heathrow airport has claimed that the caps will only be lifted once there are enough ground handling staff. As we know Heathrow has seen much travel chaos with stakeholders (people involved) blaming each other for the problems. In particular, there were problems during the Easter and Jubilee weekends.

Heathrow Airport - busy
|Heathrow blamed passenger caps on a shortage of ground handlers © Getty Images

The Causes

According to the website Simple Flying, the problems have been attributed to a shortage of ground handling staff. In a statement, Heathrow has justified extending the duration of the passenger cap. It talks about the increase in unacceptable services provided to passengers. There have been delays in getting planes to the stand so that passengers can embark or disembark from the plane. There have also been severe delays in getting baggage into the baggage hall after passengers disembark from the plane. On other occasions, passengers have not been able to receive the baggage as it did not travel on the flight with them.

There were also problems with flights not being punctual and some that had to be cancelled because passengers had not boarded. These problems were all, according to Heathrow, caused by a shortage of ground handling staff. The airport explains that it needed to put the cap in place so that the resources that it had in place were able to meet customer needs. Heathrow has said that it raised concerns over the lack of ground handlers for the past 9 months. It estimates that resources are only at 70% of pre- pandemic levels. The airport has said that the cap will remain in place until airlines increase their ground handler resources.

How is Heathrow Faring?

The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on Heathrow, with the airport still making losses, although its losses are less than last year. The airport has reduced its adjusted losses before tax from £466m to £321m for the first six months of 2022 as passengers return to flying. In this period, revenues (the total amount of money coming into the airport before expenses are deducted) improved to £1.28 billion ($1.54 billion) compared to £348 million ($418 million) in the same period last year, which was due to a 577% increase in passenger numbers. During this period, Heathrow Airport welcomed 26.1 million passengers, up from 3.9 million over the same six-month period in 2021.

Welcome to Heathrow Airport
Heathrow is still making losses but less so than last year | © AP

As one can see, Heathrow is still facing problems. However, the situation, at least financially, has improved. Heathrow now has to work with airlines to ensure that the ground handling staff shortage situation gets better. Despite all of the problems, Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye has suggested that the airport is well prepared for recovery and that the summer has started well at Heathrow. He has also thanked the staff for all their hard work. This outlook may seem, however, overly positive given the issues the airport has faced already. We have to wait to see if the positivity of Kaye’s comments is reflected in the future performance of Heathrow.

How have you been affected by Heathrow’s passenger cap? Let us know in the comments!

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