Heathrow Airport has become the second major European airport to instruct airlines to artificially limit the number of passengers onboard flights for the next two months in order to avoid possibly dangerous terminal overcrowding.
Between the hours of 5 a.m. and 6 p.m., the West London airport intends to reduce the number of passengers traveling through Terminal 5, the largest of just four terminals at Heathrow, by as many as 1,200 passengers each hour.
The capacity reduction is the equivalent of roughly nine British Airways Airbus A319 aircraft based at Terminal 5. The airport has apparently blamed the capacity reduction on check-in delays rather than its understaffed security checkpoints.
British Airways has acknowledged issues at its check-in counters, but CEO Sean Doyle claims that many of the delays are inevitable due to time-consuming pandemic documentation checks.
Although requests to alter post-Brexit immigration regulations to bring in cheaper foreign labor have been roundly rejected by the UK’s Conservative government, the airline is attempting to recruit new ground workers with the promise of a £1,000 sign-on incentive.
“Without a reduction in demand, the operation would not be considered safe,” Heathrow airport said in comments reported by The Times.
Because of the pandemic, airlines were concentrated in fewer buildings, which exacerbated the problems at Terminal 5. Terminal 4 was shut down at the start of the pandemic and will return later this month.
On June 14, Qatar Airways will depart from its temporary Terminal 5 location, freeing up a significant amount of room for British Airways.
Due to delays at its security checks, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has been pushing airlines to limit passenger numbers in recent weeks. Certain airlines have been granted the authority to have their landing and takeoff privileges cut off by the airport, “serving as a lock on the door.”
The limits will be in effect from June 1 to August 28 as part of a package of initiatives to relieve congestion at Schiphol Airport.