BA suspends short-haul ticket sales from Heathrow: what you need to know

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters</span>
Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

British Airways has suspended ticket sales on short-haul flights out of Heathrow. How will this affect travellers and why have they done it?

Have any more British Airways flights been cancelled?

No additional flights have been cancelled as a result of the suspension of short-haul ticket sales.

Are any passengers being bumped? What if you have a ticket?

No. Passengers with existing bookings will still be able to travel and inbound flights will not be affected. Long-haul tickets are still on sale.

So what has BA done?

It has stopped selling any more last-minute tickets on its short-haul flights out of Heathrow to comply with the passenger cap announced by the London airport three weeks ago. BA paused sales last weekend and has now extended that until 15 August.

BA operates far more services from Heathrow than any other airline, with its own dedicated terminal, and agreed immediately to the cap, which limits passenger numbers to 100,000 a day across the airport.

What was the cap for?

The cap was to help ensure scheduled services could operate without delay amid last-minute cancellations, as the aviation industry continues to struggle to recruit and retain enough staff to meet the demand for flights after Covid travel restrictions were lifted.

Heathrow says there is a dearth of ground staff, who are hired or contracted by airlines. That has contributed to large queues at check-ins and problems at baggage reclaim, with the potential for any delays or hiccups to escalate into broader chaos.

So BA suspending short-haul sales was simply part of that agreement?

Yes. The airline says the decision will also “maximise rebooking options” for passengers bumped from those flights it did actually cancel, four weeks ago.

Will it continue?

The cap is in place until 11 September. BA has now paused short-haul ticket sales for another week, until 15 August, and will keep the decision under review. It also plans to limit sales “dynamically” throughout the summer, without a blanket ban, restricting seats on particular flights at busy periods, although most outbound travel takes place in the first few weeks of the school holiday.

Will it stop people travelling?

Few people will be directly affected. The vast majority of summer passengers are leisure travellers and bookwell in advance. In a normal year, many peak season services are fully booked . Those who wanted to travel specifically on a BA flight at the last minute – for example business travellers and frequent flyers with points – may be disappointed. But BA Heathrow summer fares were already prohibitive for most people – even those with enough disposable income for a summer holiday.

The limit on capacity could increase air fares in general for people who have left it very late to book. Most short-haul destinations can be reached on alternative airlines from other London airports, or by less environmentally damaging methods, such as train, boat or car. BA’s profits will be affected only slightly by the loss of revenue from last-minute bookings.