UK airport could limit passengers once again: Will it affect your travel plans for Christmas?

The airport has staff shortages and believes there could be potential disruption this winter.

Heathrow airport warning there could be a passenger cap again as Christmas approaches
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Heathrow airport warning there could be a passenger cap again as Christmas approaches

Heathrow airport has warned that it may be necessary to impose passenger caps this winter as the busy Christmas period approaches. Despite stating they do not want to impose any caps, they could be used to avoid any flight cancellations during particularly busy spells, 'if needed', as per the BBC.

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The announcement comes just as the airport is getting over a hectic summer where they were forced to impose a daily cap of 100,000 to cope with staff shortages. This cap was introduced in July and will be lifted at the end of October though business is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for a while, the BBC reports:

Heathrow bosses expect there to be 25% fewer travellers this year compared to 2019, with up to 62 million people passing through.

Staff shortages

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Heathrow warns of possible passenger caps this Christmas Bloomberg - Getty Images

A great deal of the disruption has been caused by staff shortages after drastic job cuts during the pandemic. Thousands of airline industry employees including pilots, cabin crew, and baggage handlers, were laid off as Covid-19 regulations wiped out demand.

Heathrow commented on the challenges ahead, as per The Guardian:

Our priority is to build back the airport ecosystem to meet demand at peak times. To do so, businesses across the airport need to recruit and train up to 25,000 security-cleared people – a huge logistical challenge.

How will you be affected?

Whilst restrictions could be in place, bosses state that they would be used in such a way to balance the numbers so that customers shouldn’t be aware of any disruption. It’s all about balancing supply and demand, John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, explains in The Guardian:

The cap in the summer was on passenger numbers, which airlines managed by limiting seat sales so consumers wouldn’t notice it. Whatever mechanism we have [at Christmas] will have the same kind of effect of keeping passenger numbers in balance. Anything we do will be in the background so consumers don’t notice it.

Airlines themselves will be averse to any passenger caps as they are all looking to rebuild their businesses after a disastrous couple of years for the aviation industry. Virgin Atlantic have come out and urged Heathrow not to impose the caps as they are fully prepared for the Christmas period, as per the BBC:

Virgin Atlantic remains ready to deliver a full winter schedule and we expect Heathrow to do the same.

Sources used:

- BBC 'Heathrow passenger limit may return for Christmas'

- The Guardian 'Heathrow passengers may have to fly outside peak times ahead of Christmas'

Airport staff to strike, here's how your Christmas travel plans could be affected Airport staff to strike, here's how your Christmas travel plans could be affected