Why has British Airways stopped selling short-haul flights from Heathrow? Which flights are being axed?

·3-min read
British Airways’ short-haul timetable will be shrunk by 8% (Steve Parsons/PA)
British Airways’ short-haul timetable will be shrunk by 8% (Steve Parsons/PA)

British Airways has announced that it will cancel thousands of flights as it copes with airport passenger caps and lower than expected demand this winter. It will now be axing 10,000 flights to and from Heathrow until the end of March next year.

The airline had already extended its suspension of ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow until mid-August amid recent continued disruptions to air travel.

BA said that more than 600 return flights to and from Heathrow would be cancelled until October 29, while the winter schedule, which runs until the end of March, would be cut by eight per cent.

It explained that the impact would be “minimal” because there would be alternative same-day flights available on most of the routes affected, but some cancellations would be unavoidable.

“While the vast majority of our customers will travel as planned and we’re protecting key holiday destinations over half-term, we will need to make some further cancellations up to the end of October,” a spokesperson for BA said.

Initially, sales on domestic and European destinations were suspended until August 8 to help maximise flight rebooking options for existing customers, and this suspension was later extended to August 15.

Here is everything you need to know about BA’s suspension of ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow.

Why did BA suspend ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow?

Last month, Heathrow, like Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, told airlines to limit the number of tickets they sell over the summer after capping the number of passengers flying from the hub at 100,000 a day.

In a statement, BA said: “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximise rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”

This decision comes amid struggles faced by airlines and airports across Britain and Europe to cope with the rebound in demand for travel post-lockdown, with many failing to recruit enough staff.

Problems with baggage handling systems at Heathrow airport have also led to passengers seeing huge delays in reclaiming their luggage.

Heathrow’s passenger cap, put in place to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations, is set to remain in place until September 11.

How are other airlines responding to Heathrow’s passenger cap?

Last month, Emirates rejected Heathrow’s order to cancel flights to comply with the cap, accusing the airport of showing blatant disregard for consumers by attempting to force it to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers.

Virgin Atlantic also criticised the airport’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures that were contributing to the chaos.

A Heathrow spokesperson said it would be disappointing if any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey.

A joint letter was issued by the Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority to carriers expressing concern that consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations.

The letter stated: “We are concerned that some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices.”

These include selling more tickets for flights “than they can reasonably expect to supply”, not always “fully satisfying obligations” to offer flights on alternative airlines to passengers affected by cancellations, and failing to give consumers “sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights”.