Travel struggles continue in Europe this summer, and London’s Heathrow Airport announced it would join Amsterdam’s Schiphol in capping the daily number of passengers that depart from its terminals.
“Our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags,” the airport’s operators said in a statement.
Heathrow serves 203 destinations (in 84 countries), according to the airport, with the most popular highlighted as New York, Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. As of 2018, the airport saw 219,458 daily average passengers pass through.
What’s happening at Heathrow?
This summer’s travel surge has led to long lines and lost bags at Britain’s biggest airport.
In an open letter to passengers, Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said the airport has seen 40 years’ worth of growth in passenger numbers over the last four months.
“As departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations,” the letter said.
Europe’s airport mess: Here’s how summer travelers can ‘prepare for the worst.’
As a result, the airport plans to limit the number of daily departing passengers to 100,000 beginning on July 12 through Sept. 11. Heathrow’s operators say more tickets have already been sold on many days, so they asked airlines to stop selling new tickets for that period.
Some carriers, including British Airways, had already announced schedule cuts.
What does it mean for passengers?
Heathrow’s operators insist that most existing bookings won’t be affected, but acknowledged that some airlines would likely change flights to other days, move departures to other area airports and cancel some itineraries.
The airport operators are also asking passengers to not arrive more than three hours before their flights to help reduce crowding.
What to do if your flight is affected
If you’re traveling through Heathrow in the near future, keep an eye on your itinerary for any changes to the schedule. If your flight is canceled or altered, get in touch with your airline or travel agent about rebooking if the new itinerary doesn’t work for you. It’s a good idea to know your alternatives in advance so you can ask for specific accommodations.
This summer, it’s also an especially good idea to purchase travel insurance in case something goes wrong or your bag goes missing, and as always: pack your patience. Even with the passenger caps, lines at Heathrow are likely to be long.