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British Airways poised to suspend sale of long-haul flights from Heathrow

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BA long haul flights cancelled threat suspended short-hault flights Heathrow Airport holidaymakers face travel chaos across Europe due to chronic staff shortages 2022 - Anadolu Agency
BA long haul flights cancelled threat suspended short-hault flights Heathrow Airport holidaymakers face travel chaos across Europe due to chronic staff shortages 2022 - Anadolu Agency

British Airways is poised to pause sales of long-haul flights to destinations such as New York as the airline battles disruption at Heathrow.

The carrier has already suspended ticket sales for short-haul flights from the country’s biggest airport for at least a week in response to a cap on daily passenger numbers.

But a spokesman confirmed that BA cannot rule out disruption to long-haul routes out of Heathrow either while the cap remains in place.

It could push prices higher and mean travellers trying to book last-minute journeys to further-afield destinations such as New York, Singapore or Dubai may be unable to find seats.

And budget rival Ryanair on Wednesday suggested it was well-positioned to capitalise on the turmoil.

Eddie Wilson, the chief executive officer of the carrier's main unit, claimed other airlines had been complacent about hiring enough staff for this summer.

“The time to hire for this summer was last October,” he told Bloomberg. "This isn’t like running a warehouse where you can just get people, they’ve got to be part of a training process.

"Our view was, which was borne out, that when demand came back, it was going to come back in one go and not come back on the drip.

"So I think we were just better prepared and we were optimistic.

"But, I temper that with, it has been difficult even as we come back because we’ve got to go into airports that aren’t resourced."

Heathrow announced last month that a maximum of 100,000 people per day would be allowed to fly until September 11.

It followed a similar move by Gatwick to limit the number of flights that can operate following chaotic scenes at Britain’s busiest airports this summer, with large numbers of passengers subjected to hours-long queue times, missing or late baggage and last-minute cancellations.

Alex Macheras, an independent aviation analyst, said it was "realistic" to expect that BA would also now have to cut back sales of long-haul flights amid ongoing disruption.

He said: "With the current restrictions, caps and pressures that are being put on airlines, there is no way they could guarantee that not a single long-haul flight will be affected.

"BA's global route network is incredibly vast and while short-haul flights with multiple frequencies will always take the hit first, they also operate long-haul flights with multiple frequencies. So there is room there as well to trim down the schedule.

"The stand-out example would be the route to New York, but also other flights to North America and South East Asia.

“There are also routes, to Doha for example, where they can shift passengers on to flights with partner airlines such as Qatar Airways."

However, he said that in most cases passengers would only be forced to book long-haul flights at a different time, rather than being forced to travel on a different day altogether.

The BA spokesman said ticket sale suspensions were being dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with no blanket restrictions being imposed.

For example, if ticket sales for a morning flight to New York were paused, travellers may still be able to book themselves on to an afternoon flight.

The move by BA to stop sales of all short-haul flights from Heathrow is unprecedented.

More than half of the flights that go out of the airport are operated by the carrier, which had already cancelled tens of thousands of flights due to staffing shortages.

BA says it is a “responsible” course of action, however the move is likely to cost the airline a small fortune in lost sales.

Many of its flights still have empty seats but the halting of sales will ensure there is spare capacity for passengers to be rebooked on to them if there is further disruption this summer or delays cause some people to miss connections.

Heathrow has blamed the need for a passenger cap on “critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced”.

It has complained in particular of a lack of check-in staff, bag handlers and other logistics personnel used by airlines.

The restrictions it has imposed on passenger numbers are expected to cost airlines as much as half a billion pounds, according to aviation data firm OAG.

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