Heathrow has said a cap on the number of departing passengers introduced last month has resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations and more timely departures and baggage delivery.
In July, the airport asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets and imposed a limit of 100,000 passengers departing each day as it struggled to cope with a surge in travel after the end of the Covid travel restrictions. The cap will last until 11 September.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said on Thursday that the cap was working. “Passengers are seeing better, more reliable journeys since the introduction of the demand cap,” he said.
Heathrow said it had launched a review into ground handling at the airport, and was working to increase border security over the coming weeks.
The comments came as the airport released new numbers showing Heathrow had the biggest annual rise in passengers of any European airport in the last year, with more than 6 million people travelling through in July. That marked a 300% rise on a year earlier.
On Tuesday, Ferrovial, the Spanish transport infrastructure company, said it was looking at options for its 25% stake in Heathrow. The Madrid-listed firm said it was holding talks after interest from French private equity firm Ardian, which has itself held talks about a possible joint proposal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Airlines and airports across Britain and Europe have struggled to cope with the rebound in travel, with many unable to recruit enough staff.
Heathrow told airlines to limit the number of summer sales after it imposed the cap on 12 July. Days later, British Airways said it was restricting sales for short-haul flights all summer, adding that suspending sales would also allow existing customers to rebook flights as needed. Emirates initially resisted the order but later agreed to cap sales along with BA.
Heathrow said inexperienced travellers were partly to blame for delays, after people ignored rules banning liquids above 100ml in hand luggage. Anxious passengers had exacerbated queues, with some arriving more than three hours before departure and before check-ins had opened.
Despite the cap, the number of people taking off from Heathrow averaged 100,000 a day in the first 10 days of the UK summer holidays, making it the busiest period for departures since Christmas 2019, the airport said. New York, Los Angeles and Dubai were the most popular routes.