As a summer of travel chaos continues, the head of London’s busiest airport announced on Tuesday that it will mandate a cap on departures in order to deal with ongoing passenger disruptions.
London Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, in an open letter published on Tuesday, said that the airport had made the decision to cap passenger demand at 100,00 departing passengers per day. That number, Holland-Kaye said, is the amount of passengers staff at Heathrow is able to serve each day.
“Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not traveling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality, and last-minute cancellations,” he said.
“This is due to a combination of reduced arrivals punctuality (as a result of delays at other airports and in European airspace) and increased passenger numbers starting to exceed the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport. Our colleagues are going above and beyond to get as many passengers away as possible, but we cannot put them at risk for their own safety and wellbeing.”
The cap, which will be in place from July 12 to Sept. 11, is less than the average daily summer departures of 104,000 from Heathrow and the airport is asking its airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers. A little over 1,000 of that 4,000-seat excess has already been sold.
Heathrow had previously apologized for disruptions, including long lines at security and missing baggage, at the airport during its monthly traffic update. Holland-Kaye said Heathrow has seen “exponential growth in passenger numbers as nearly six million people got away—the equivalent of 40 years of growth in just four months” in June.
The airport had started recruiting in November 2021 in anticipation of the demand-rebound, but there are still “some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under-resourced,” including ground handlers and check-in staff.
Passengers can help by arriving early, completing COVID requirements prior to arriving at Heathrow, and being prepared at security.