UK News

BA suspends sales of short-haul tickets from Heathrow

British Airways (BA) has reportedly suspended selling short-haul flights from London’s Heathrow Airport for at least a week…reports Asian Lite News

British Airways has halted sales of tickets on short-haul flights from Heathrow Airport until 8 August as disruption to air travel continues.

The move is due to the cap on daily passenger numbers that the UK’s largest airport has imposed over the summer.

The sales suspension will affect BA’s flights to domestic and European destinations. Thousands of air travellers have been hit by disruption in recent weeks, including last-minute cancellations.

Airports and airlines, which cut jobs during Covid lockdowns, have found it difficult to recruit enough staff as demand for holidays has returned.

Heathrow Airport has struggled to cope with the rebound in air travel and problems with its baggage handling systems have also led to passengers seeing huge delays in reclaiming their luggage.

Last month, Heathrow told airlines to stop selling summer tickets, as it said it would limit the number of passengers departing each day to 100,000 – 4,000 fewer than previously scheduled. The cap on numbers is set to remain in place until 11 September.

As BA is the largest airline at Heathrow it is affected by the limit more than other carriers.

In a statement, BA said: “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximise rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of travel agent industry body Advantage Travel Partnership, told the BBC the move was “positive news” for consumers.

“The whole idea is that you allow space on flights for anybody that is on a flight that has been disrupted – it enables [BA] to scale up,” she said.

“In one sense it sounds quite counter-intuitive that an airline would be reducing seats at its peak period but it’s absolutely all about building resilience, making sure there’s less disruption, ensuring that those people that have booked… that there’ll be less risk to those flights being disrupted.”

However, BA’s suspension of ticket sales already appears to have had an impact on prices.

On Tuesday morning, a direct flight from Heathrow to Barcelona this coming Saturday cost a minimum of £650, compared with £295 the following weekend, according to flight comparison website Skyscanner.

Flights from Heathrow to Frankfurt cost upwards of £553, compared with £248 the following weekend.

It comes after Emirates last month rejected Heathrow’s order to cancel flights to comply with the cap. The airline accused the airport of showing “blatant disregard for consumers” by attempting to force it to “deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers” through the cap.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said at the time it would be “disappointing” if “any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey.” Virgin Atlantic also criticised the airport’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures which are contributing to the chaos. Airlines on July 21 were accused of “harmful practices” in their treatment of passengers affected by disruption.

The Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority issued a joint letter to carriers, expressing concern that “consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations.” The letter stated: “We are concerned that some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices.”

These include selling more tickets for flights “than they can reasonably expect to supply” not always “fully satisfying obligations” to offer flights on alternative airlines to passengers affected by cancellations, and failing to give consumers “sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights.”

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