DALLAS – There have been reports that London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has instructed airlines to artificially limit the number of passengers on board flights to avoid dangerous terminal overcrowding.
Airways reached out to LHR to corroborate such reports. An airport spokesperson responded, saying that, as a precautionary step, and in line with what other EU hub airports like Frankfurt (FRA) and Amsterdam (AMS) have also done, LHR had indeed worked with airlines to determine what the available capacity should be for check-in at various points throughout the day.
The West London airport spokesperson explains, “We then engaged with airlines well in advance of these expectations to enable them to either re-time or consolidate their flights to ensure passenger check-in experiences were safe and to smooth the peaks on airline check-in staff. Many airlines have flagged that they have already canceled flights because of their own resourcing issues over the summer.”
According to Paddle Your Own Kanoo‘s Mateusz Maszczynski, LHR wanted to reduce the number of passengers passing through Terminal 5, the largest of the four terminals at LHR, by “as many as 1,200 passengers each hour.”
Maszczynski added that “the capacity reduction is the equivalent of roughly nine British Airways Airbus A319 aircraft based at Terminal 5. He then went on to say that “the airport has apparently blamed the capacity reduction on check-in delays rather than its understaffed security checkpoints.”
The airport told Airways that there was a natural limit to what airlines could safely accommodate during their check-in process “given the extended times they are taking to verify each passenger’s paperwork complies with destination requirements.”
Photo: London Heathrow Airport
COVID Restrictions Still Loom over Summer Travel
Passenger numbers are higher now than at any time since the start of the pandemic – and growing. LHR says it expects and has been preparing for a busy summer season. However, the airport points out that there are still COVID restrictions in place for nearly 80% of its markets – which means that airlines and their check-in colleagues take longer to process each passenger through check-in.
British Airways (BA) has acknowledged issues at its check-in counters at LHR, but CEO Sean Doyle also says that many of the delays are inevitable due to time-consuming pandemic documentation checks.
“Our primary concern is the safe operation of the airport and we will continue to support the airlines to make safe decisions for passengers during this period, says LHR. adding that it is expecting lots of people to travel over the summer with “passenger numbers across many days reaching levels last seen before the pandemic.”
To accommodate such numbers, LHR says it is reopening Terminal 4 on June 14, and recruiting up to 1,000 security officers this year.
“Over the Easter period, over 97% of passengers were through security within 10 minutes. As you’d expect, we are aiming to maintain that good service throughout the summer,” assured the spokesperson for what is the largest of the six international airports serving London.
Featured image: London Heathrow Media Center