The travel center imposed the daily limit in July during peak season, when photos circulated of lost luggage piling up on terminal floors and lines meandering around security barriers for hours. Heathrow cited staff shortages that struggled with rising traffic after countries emerged from the coronavirus lockdowns that hit the airline industry.
London Airport said on Monday that the temporary limit resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations and “shorter waiting times for baggage”.
Just as summer kicked off and the United States lifted a requirement for coronavirus testing, pent-up demand for travel collided with pandemic layoffs that left workers battered. The result was thousands of canceled flights and strikes across Europe.
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German pilots, French airport workers and Italian air traffic controllers have all walked out in recent weeks, pressured by labor shortages and rising inflation. Union activists in Paris called for better wages and urgent hiring to restore pre-pandemic staffing levels.
Travelers in Europe added a record heat wave – which threatened to melt airport runways in Britain – to their list of hurdles for 2022.
The chaos has filled terminals with stranded passengers, including at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport when Dutch airline KLM briefly canceled inbound European flights in June. The airport then introduced a limit for departures, which has now also been extended until October.
“Global air traffic is getting closer to 2019 levels,” said FlightAware, which tracks airport traffic and reported “great growth” this week over last year’s flights in Europe and China.
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Some consumer rights groups have blamed the airline industry for not planning for the travel wave.
Heathrow said this week it has hired 1,300 people in the past six months in an effort to rebuild its pre-pandemic workforce. In Monday’s announcement, it said passenger limits would remain under review and “could be lifted sooner” if conditions improve, including “a material increase” in resources.
“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible,” said Ross Baker, Heathrow’s Chief Commercial Officer, “but we can only do that if we make sure everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service. that our passengers deserve.”