Heathrow says airport travel chaos is easing

Heathrow airport insists recent travel chaos is beginning to ease after telling airlines to cut their flight programmes to tackle delays and cancellations.

The group’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said passengers have been seeing “better, more reliable journeys” since the cap on departing flights was enforced.

Heathrow and Gatwick ordered airlines to slash their flight schedules following chaotic scenes as staff shortages left them struggling to cope with the sudden ramping up of demand for overseas holidays.

Holidaymakers suffered delays and cancellations along with lengthy queues as airports struggled with baggage handling, air traffic control and security.

But Heathrow said the cap has “delivered improvements to passenger experience, with fewer last-minute flight cancellations, better aircraft punctuality and baggage delivery”.

Mr Holland-Kaye added: “Passengers are seeing better, more reliable journeys since the introduction of the demand cap.

“I want to thank all my colleagues across the airport for their amazing work in getting people away on their holidays.”

Heathrow did not give details on when the cap might be lifted, but said a boosting of airline ground handler operations would be a key factor – “and we have initiated a review of ground handling to support that objective”.

The group is likely to face a barrage of compensation claims from affected holiday firms and airlines, many of which have laid the blame for disruption squarely at the feet of the airports.

Tui on Wednesday revealed it is seeking to recoup a “significant” sum from the airports it flies from after taking a 75 million euro (£63 million) cost hit due to the recent travel woes.

Heathrow said security staffing is back at pre-pandemic levels and 88% of passengers have been able to clear security within 20 minutes or less.

The group’s latest passenger statistics revealed it saw 318% more people – a total of 6.3 million – pass through its terminals in July.

It said a further 16 million are expected to travel through Heathrow between July and September as travel demand ramps up.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said Government efforts have also played a part in easing travel disruption.

A DfT spokesman said: “Last month we unveiled a 22-point plan to support the industry, including accelerated national security vetting checks to help speed up recruitment, and a temporary amnesty on airport slots to allow airlines to plan ahead and prevent last-minute cancellations.

“These measures, alongside steps industry have taken, are clearly working and flight cancellations have recently fallen back to their 2019 levels following the changes, which are providing passengers with more certainty.”