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BA halts ticket sales for many flights leaving Heathrow before mid-August

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FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London
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LONDON (Reuters) -British Airways has halted ticket sales for short-haul flights which depart from London's Heathrow airport before the middle of this month, following the airport's decision to cap capacity to tackle widespread disruption and cancellations.

The IAG-owned airline said on Tuesday that the sales suspension for domestic and European destinations was designed to leave capacity for existing customers to rebook flights if needed.

The airline's website showed no tickets for flights departing before Aug. 16 to popular European destinations, including Paris, Milan and Amsterdam.

A British Airways spokesperson declined to comment on exactly how long the sales pause would last, or the destinations affected, but said the airline was seeking to manage capacity restrictions which Heathrow had said would last until Sept. 11.

"We've been taking responsible action by limiting sales ... on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available to rebook customers," he said.

Heathrow told airlines on July 12 to limit the number of tickets they sold for flights departing over the next two months in order to cap the total number of passengers flying at 100,000 a day and limit queues, delays and cancellations.

Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has taken similar action.

Airlines and airports across Europe have struggled to cope with the rebound in post-lockdown travel, with many failing to recruit enough staff to handle check-ins and baggage handling.

On July 6 BA said it would reduce its summer schedule and "consolidate some of our quieter services".

Heathrow said last week that the cap had delivered a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage handling.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Muvija M; Editing by Kylie MacLellan and David Milliken)

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