Heathrow cancels over 60 flights as Wizz Air slashes summer capacity

·4-min read
Passengers wait for their flights at Heathrow airport. Photo: PA
Passengers wait for their flights at Heathrow airport. Photo: PA

Holidaymakers face more flight cancellations this summer as airlines and airports rush to curb the air travel chaos that is showing no signs of letting up.

On Monday, Heathrow airport grounded 61 out of around 1,100 scheduled flights due to concerns about passenger capacity and safety amid widespread staff shortages. The move affects around 10,000 passengers.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "We are expecting higher passenger numbers in Terminals 3 and 5 today than the airport currently has capacity to serve, and so to maintain a safe operation we have asked some airlines in Terminals 3 and 5 to remove a combined total of 61 flights from the schedule.

"We apologise for the impact to travel plans and we are working closely with airlines to get affected passengers rebooked on to other flights."

Affected passengers will not be entitled to compensation from airlines as the reason for the cancellation is classified as being outside of their control.

Watch: Heathrow apologises after delayed flights make sleep ‘impossible’ for locals

Britain's busiest airport also warned that it would ask airlines to cancel more flights this summer if it does not believe previous schedule reductions will sufficiently reduce disruption.

"We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary," Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said.

"We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey."

Meanwhile, passengers waiting for delayed flights at Stansted have been herded into a satellite terminal to help ease congestion as Britain swelters in a heatwave.

Read more: Summer travel: Which airlines have cancelled flights? All you need to know

But more pressure is mounting on the aviation sector as the threat of strikes across Europe by airline employees and pilots adds to the woes.

Low cost European carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) on Monday announced it will slash its peak summer flight programme due to the chaos at airports.

The London-listed Hungarian airline, said it would trim its capacity by another 5% as part of efforts to avoid flight cancellations and delays.

Shares in the FTSE 250 (^FTMC) airline fell as much as 5% on Monday in London.

On Friday, Scandinavian airline SAS (SAS.ST) grounded nearly 70% of its flights as a pilot strike stranded thousands of tourists overseas.

British Airways (BA), owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L), last week announced it was ditching thousands of flights amid a staffing crunch.

And German carrier Lufthansa (LHA.DE), Europe’s biggest airline, is planning to cut domestic and European flights from Frankfurt airport between Friday 8 July and Thursday 14 July to provide a stable flight plan.

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Separately, Heathrow apologised for the recent chaos, saying: "Despite our best efforts there have been periods in recent weeks, where service levels have not been acceptable, with long queue times, delays for passengers with reduced mobility, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, and we want to apologise to any passengers who have been affected by this."

It came as it reported nearly 6 million passengers passed through the airport in June, taking the total for the first six months of the year to 25 million.

Heathrow said the sharp rebound in demand means it has experienced 40 years of passenger growth in just four months.

Last week, the UK government announced an "airline slot amnesty", giving airlines permission to cancel flights without incurring fines.

Read more: Airline slot amnesty: Will my flight get cancelled?

Carriers were ordered last month by the government and the Civil Aviation Authority to make sure their timetables were "deliverable" after the sector was unable to cope with demand during the Platinum Jubilee half-term school holiday.

Meanwhile, things aren't much better on the ground as the train drivers' union prepares to announce its decision on whether to strike in what could be the first national walkout across UK's railways in 25 years.

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