Travel struggles continue in Europe this summer, and London’s Heathrow Airport announced it would join Amsterdam’s Schiphol in capping the daily number of passengers who depart from its terminals.
“Our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags,” the airport’s operators said in a statement.
Heathrow serves 203 destinations in 84 countries, according to the airport; the most popular are New York, Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. As of 2018, the airport saw 219,458 daily average passengers pass through.
What’s happening at Heathrow?
This summer’s travel surge has led to long lines and lost bags at Britain’s biggest airport.
In an open letter to passengers, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said the airport has seen 40 years’ worth of growth in passenger numbers over the past four months.
“As departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations,” the letter said.
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As a result, the airport plans to limit the number of daily departing passengers to 100,000 through Sept. 11. Heathrow’s operators say more tickets have already been sold on many days, so they asked airlines to stop selling new tickets for that period.
Some carriers, including British Airways, already had announced schedule cuts.
What does it mean for passengers?
Heathrow’s operators insist that most existing bookings won’t be affected, but they acknowledged that some airlines probably would change flights to other days, move departures to other area airports and cancel some itineraries.
The airport operators are also asking passengers to not arrive more than three hours before their flights to help reduce crowding.
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What to do if your flight is affected
If you’re traveling through Heathrow, keep an eye on your itinerary for any changes to the schedule. If your flight is canceled or altered, get in touch with your airline or travel agent about rebooking if the new itinerary doesn’t work for you. It’s a good idea to know your alternatives in advance so you can ask for specific accommodations.
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This summer, it’s also an especially good idea to purchase travel insurance in case something goes wrong or your bag is lost. And as always: pack your patience. Even with the passenger caps, lines at Heathrow are likely to be long.