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 ICAG.L-owned airline said on Tuesday 2 August 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.
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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 11 September.
"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 12 July 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 6 July 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.
Schiphol Airport Says Passenger Caps To Continue Through October
The above news followed news that Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport said on Tuesday 2 August that passenger caps introduced for the summer season to cope with long waiting times and other logistical problems will be extended into September and October.
The airport will also continuing other measures, such as asking passengers to show up no more than four hours before their flights, it said in a statement.
Schiphol said it had warned airlines that it expects more passengers than it can handle during the Dutch autumn break in late October.
KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France AIRF.PA-KLM, said the decision meant it would have to limit some ticket sales in the autumn.
"KLM does not expect cancellations to be necessary to meet the limit on the number of passengers boarding locally," the company said. "However, fewer seats than usual will be available in the Dutch market."
The carrier said in June that it would hold Schiphol responsible for financial damages resulting from the passenger caps.
Heathrow Says Passenger Cap Has Improved Operations
All of the above news followed news that London's Heathrow said a decision to cap flight numbers after it struggled to cope with a rebound in travel had delivered a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage handling.
The airport capped the number of passenger departures at 100,000 a day earlier this month to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations, to the consternation of some airlines.
It said on Tuesday 26 July the decision had stabilised its operations, but it was still struggling with a lack of ground handlers.
Heathrow said the number of people employed in ground handling had fallen sharply during the pandemic, as airlines cut costs. It estimated that airline ground handlers were at around 70% of pre-pandemic levels and said there had been no increase since January.
The airport said its first-half adjusted loss before tax reduced by £466 million to £321 million as a result of higher passenger numbers, but said it was still struggling with a lack of ground handlers.
It does not expect to pay a dividend in 2022.
"Airline ground handler performance has been much more stable since the cap came into effect, and we have seen a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage performance," it said.
Emirates, the world's biggest operator of long-haul jets, initially rejected demands to reduce capacity at the airport before it added another Dubai service from Heathrow's London rival Gatwick.