London’s Heathrow Airport, which like other British hubs is struggling to absorb demand, mainly due to staff shortages, canceled 61 flights on Monday and warned it could repeat this summer.
Heathrow announced in a statement to AFP that it had “asked some companies (…) to cancel a total of 61 flights” as the number of passengers on Monday “exceeded the airport’s policy”.
These include British Airways, Virgin and Air France flights, an airport spokesman told AFP.
In total, 1,100 flights were scheduled to arrive and depart from the London airport on Monday, which had already prompted some airlines to ease their flight schedules at the end of June, especially as passengers had major problems delivering luggage.
Heathrow apologizes to affected passengers but says it will take action again if necessary to “ensure passengers receive the service they deserve”.
For their part, companies such as British Airways, Wizz Air or easyJet have recently canceled thousands of flights this summer, reducing chaos at British airports, which is particularly marked by long spring weekends.
“We will review airlines’ schedule changes (…) and ask for further action if necessary,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kay warned in a statement on Monday.
He added that the airport had “an increase (in passenger numbers) equivalent to 40 years in just 4 months”. The result: “We have recently seen that demand exceeds the capacity of the airport, airlines and ground service providers”.
British airlines and airports, which laid off thousands of people at the peak of the pandemic, are struggling to recruit, with long queues and a series of flight cancellations, and have had a tough few weeks ahead.
British Airways, Heathrow’s main base, has cut around 10,000 jobs during the pandemic and has already drastically reduced its flight schedule for several months. The airline announced on Wednesday that it would cancel 10,300 additional flights by the end of October.
Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, announced on Monday that it will further reduce its flight schedule during the summer peak, as Easyjet did a few weeks ago.
The British government recently relaxed rules governing take-off and landing slots this summer, allowing companies to adjust their flight schedules without losing rights for next season.
“Due to delays at other airports and airspace congestion across Europe (currently) the lack of arrival times is very serious,” the airport said in a statement on Monday, exacerbating the situation at Heathrow.
London airport terminals increased passenger numbers by almost seven in a year between January and June. Heathrow says it began recruiting in November and estimates it will have as many security staff as before the pandemic by the end of July.
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