Heathrow Airport passenger cap: Ryanair boss slams ‘hopeless’ decision to extend flight limits

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The boss of Ryanair has slammed the airport’s decision to continue to limit the number of daily passengers as “hopeless”.

Heathrow Airport has extended its passenger cap until the end of October, amid fears the move could lead to more flights being suspended.

The airport’s limit of 100,000 passengers per day, introduced in July to cope with the surge of summer travel, will now continue until October 29, it has been confirmed.

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The airport has experienced a period of disruption – including cancelling thousands of flights – as it has tried to manage the boom in demand for air travel.

It says the passenger cap could be lifted before October 29, which marks the end of half-term for schools in the UK, if staffing levels improve.

The airport is limiting the number of arrivals and departures into October (Photo: Getty Images)The airport is limiting the number of arrivals and departures into October (Photo: Getty Images)
The airport is limiting the number of arrivals and departures into October (Photo: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Heathrow’s chief commercial officer Ross Baker said: “Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel.

“That’s why we introduced temporary capacity limits in July which have already improved journeys during the summer getaway.

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“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve.”

‘The cap may backfire’

British Airways, Heathrow’s largest airline, recently suspended some of its short-haul flights in response to the passenger cap introduced in July.

Now it has been extended until the end of October, the airline is reviewing whether it will need to again limit sales.

A spokesperson for BA said: “We'll continue to work closely with Heathrow Airport as we work out the implications of this extended cap so we can get as many of our customers away as planned.”

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While Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has accused “hopeless Heathrow” of mismanaging air travel.

The chief executive said: “While hopeless Heathrow continues to cut flights and raise fares for families, Ryanair and London Stansted continue to add flights, and offer thousands of low-fare seats for the autumn midterm break.”

In response to Heathrow’s extension, the airline announced it will add more than 500 flights from its main base at Stansted airport.

Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head for Points, said it isn’t clear if the cap extension will require additional cancellations, as the number of passengers may naturally dip below 100,000 when schools return in early September.

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“It is possible, of course, that the cap backfires on Heathrow,” he said.

“As the airlines cannot now ramp up their operations before the winter timetables start on 30th October, will some simply stop recruiting?

“They would, after all, save money by falling back on their existing ground staff during the quiet winter period.

“It is possible that, next Easter, we still find that airlines do not have all of the staff they need.”

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