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An Emirates Airbus A380 on final approach. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Furious Emirates Rejects Heathrow Airport’s Passenger Cap, Refusing to Cut Flights

Emirates Airlines has rejected Heathrow airport’s (LHR) request to airlines to stop selling tickets and remove capacity from the U.K.’s hub airport. In a strongly worded statement released on Thursday, the airline says the airport’s demands are a “blatant disregard for consumers”. The airline states that Heathrow is seeking to “force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travelers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones.”

With six Airbus A380 flights per day to and from Heathrow the airline says that “our ground handling and catering – run by dnata, part of the Emirates Group – are fully ready and capable of handling our flights.” A week after providing European travelers with some certainty on summer operations the Dubai-based carrier has hit back at Heathrow management who this week announced a cap of 1000,000 passengers a day until mid-September. The Emirates statement makes clear that “the crux of the issue lies with the central services and systems which are the responsibility of the airport operator.”

The statement continues, “The bottom line is, the LHR management team are cavalier about travelers and their airline customers. All the signals of a strong travel rebound were there, and for months, Emirates has been publicly vocal about the matter.  We planned ahead to get to a state of readiness to serve customers and travel demand, including rehiring and training 1,000 A380 pilots in the past year.”

Former British Airways chief executive and current director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Willie Walsh also condemned Heathrow’s passenger cap. BBC News reports Mr. Walsh stating: “To tell airlines to stop selling – what a ridiculous thing for an airport to say to an airline. I am surprised Heathrow have not been able to get their act together better than this. Airlines have been predicting stronger traffic than Heathrow has been predicting… they clearly got it completely wrong. Heathrow is trying to maximize the profitability that they get from the airport at the expense of airlines.”

In response to the criticism from airlines, Sky News reports Heathrow airport as saying they had no choice but to introduce a passenger cap. “For months we have asked airlines to help come up with a plan to solve their resourcing challenges but no clear plans were forthcoming and with each passing day, the problem got worse. We had no choice but to take the difficult decision to impose a capacity cap designed to give passengers a better, more reliable journey and to keep everyone working at the airport safe.”

Heathrow’s statement further adds: “We have tried to be as supportive as possible to airlines and our 100k cap on daily departing passengers is significantly higher than the 64k cap at Schiphol. It would be disappointing if instead of working together, any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey.”

Issues at multiple European airports have been reported for several months now with staff shortages being the main problem. The impact on the traveling public has been considerable with multiple last-minute flight cancellations and governments stepping in to try to minimize disruptions. Airlines have taken steps to mitigate issues, particularly with lost hold baggage with reports that Icelandair carry two baggage handlers on flights to Amsterdam Schiphol and Delta Air Lines operated an empty aircraft to repatriate 1000 bags from Heathrow.


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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