British Airways has suspended ticket sales for short-haul flights from Heathrow airport for the next seven days, a move that threatens further disruption to business and leisure travellers.
Ticket sales on short-haul flights from Britain’s busiest airport have been suspended until August 8, the airline confirmed on Monday. The move will affect BA’s domestic and European routes.
The British flag carrier has had to act in the face of Heathrow airport’s decision last month to cap the number of passenger numbers at 100,000 a day until September 11. Britain’s busiest airport at the time also asked airlines to stop selling tickets for the next two months in order to limit delays that have wreaked havoc with people’s travel plans.
BA said that as the result of Heathrow’s “request to limit new bookings” it had 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”.
BA has already reduced its summer flying programme. The airline said in July it would cut another 10,300 flights over the coming four months, from July until the end of October, to help stabilise its operations.
International Airlines Group, BA’s parent, last week disclosed that it had returned to profit for the first time since the start of the pandemic but warned of “acute” challenges of scaling up operations, in particular at Heathrow.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, also warned last week that the passenger cap might have to stay in force for longer than expected. The airport, which handled 125,000 departing passengers a day before the pandemic, has been affected by shortages in its security staffing as well as among airline personnel and ground handlers.
Holland-Kaye said the shortage of ground handling staff was the biggest issue still affecting capacity at the airport. He blamed airlines for not being quick enough to hire despite Heathrow having raised its concern for the past nine months. He noted that the airport’s own resources were back on track.
“It will not be a quick fix. It will need some real focus and effort by everyone to replace the ground handling resource that has been lost,” Holland-Kaye told the Financial Times.