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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Airlines instructed to Stop Selling New Tickets to London Over Christmas and New Year

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British Airways has acknowledged that over the Christmas and New Year holidays, it has begun “restricting” the sale of tickets on some international flights to London Heathrow Airport.

In what appears to be a clear indication that the airport is getting ready for chaotic situations at immigration control points as Border Force employees get ready to go on strike for eight days, the decision was made at Heathrow’s request.

Although British Airways is the only airline to date to have said it is partially complying with the request, sources indicate Heathrow instructed all airlines serving the airport to stop selling tickets to London during the Border Force strikes.

The passenger limit applies to a number of routes from December 23 to December 31, 2022.

There is no availability on several dates over the Christmas holidays for flights to Heathrow from a variety of overseas locations, including Paris, Dusseldorf, and Barcelona as well as more distant airports like New York JFK, Dallas, and Toronto.

Although flights with other airlines flying to LHR on the same dates can still be booked, inventory on a few flights has effectively been set to zero to block new bookings.

In other circumstances, there are limits placed on particular days throughout the Christmas season while flights are being sold on others.

For instance, British Airways indicates that there is no availability on flights from Berlin to Heathrow between December 23 and December 25 and between December 28 and December 30 due to Border Force officer strike action.

Flights from Heathrow are unaffected. A spokesperson for the airline said the decision would allow the carrier to run a “safe and efficient operation” during the strike period.

Everyone who has already purchased a ticket may go with their trip as scheduled, and in some situations, British Airways is providing tickets for flights on partner airlines including Iberia and American Airlines. A request for comment was not answered by Heathrow Airport.

The PCS union, which represents Border Force officers, has scheduled an eight-day strike during the Christmas holiday. The first day of the strike will start on December 23, the same day that inventory on BA’s route network looks to suddenly run out.

Heathrow announced last week that it will permit airlines to run a full flight schedule despite the possibility of border strike action.

The “vast majority of passengers,” a spokesman for the airport promised passengers, would not be impacted by the strike, although she made no mention of any preparations to limit the number of passengers allowed on inbound planes.

The airline industry criticized Heathrow last summer when it compelled carriers to curtail weight because of a staffing deficit at the airport. Although the airport eventually lifted the cap in October.

At the time, before being forced to back down, chief executive John Holland-Kaye said it might be essential to reimpose the passenger quota over the Christmas holidays.

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