Travel | July 13, 2022 12:24 pm

Heathrow Just Asked Airlines to Halt Ticket Sales

If London was in your summer plans and you don't already have a ticket, here's what you need to do next

Travellers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1, 2022 in London, England.
Unhappy travelers pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1, 2022.
Carl Court/Getty Images

Both the passenger and baggage situation at London’s Heathrow Airport seem out of control. To alleviate the issue of pent-up travel demand and understaffing, the airport has decided on a solution that will please absolutely nobody: Limiting passengers.

Per CNN, Heathrow has asked airlines to stop selling any more tickets this summer that utilize the beleaguered airport. As of now, the London hub will limit passengers to 100,000 per day until September 11. “Over the past few weeks, 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,” says Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye in an open letter. “Our colleagues are going above and beyond to get as many passengers away as possible, but we cannot put them at risk for their own safety and wellbeing.”

As expected, this isn’t going down well with passengers or other airlines. “Airlines have been predicting stronger traffic than Heathrow has been predicting…they clearly got it completely wrong,” Willie Walsh, director general of the IATA, told CNN. “To tell airlines to stop selling — what a ridiculous thing for an airport to say to an airline.”

Gilbert Ott at travel site God Save the Points pointed out that Heathrow has already asked for increased passenger fees because they insisted travel demand wouldn’t recover — and that the airport is run as a private business. “Heathrow Airport’s wealthy owners made money hand over fist — but prioritized billions in shareholder dividends over any meaningful upgrades to airport facilities, all while cutting employee terms and pay,” Orr notes. “The Heathrow passenger experience lacks most European Airports, and is miles off the standards found throughout Asia Pacific and the Middle East.” He also notes that any flight issues are the fault of the airport, not the airlines themselves.

This is a solid opinion, but that doesn’t help you, the passenger who may have wanted an England or European trip this summer. So what are your options?

If you’ve already booked your ticket to or through Heathrow, you’re fine unless the airline you’re flying tells you differently. That said, last-minute cancellations are up 188% from three years ago in the UK. There are also five other airports nearby (Gatwick probably being the one you know), and many of them are actually cheaper to get to and from London’s city center than Heathrow. And if somehow London is still your goal, you could fly to Paris or Manchester or another city, spend some time there and then take a train to London (or use one of the smaller non-Heathrow airports if you need to fly).