Heathrow dismisses Christmas capacity cap fears

Heathrow expects to be back to pre-pandemic staffing levels in time for next summer’s peak holiday travel period.

The projection came as the London hub confirmed that it will not need to impose a capacity cap this Christmas despite previous fears that restrictions imposed this summer may have to be reintroduced.

Revealing that it is ready for “the biggest Christmas in three years”, the airport said: “Companies across Heathrow have done an incredible job in recruiting and training around 16,000 colleagues over the last 12 months, which is keeping capacity and demand in balance.

“At current rates of recruitment, we are on track to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels before the peak summer holiday period in 2023.

“We have been working with airlines and their ground handlers to prepare for the Christmas peak, and have a good plan, which will not require any capacity cap.”

However, Heathrow warned: “We are aware of potential strike action at a number of organisations, including a national Border Force strike. 

“We are supporting organisations on contingency plans to minimise any impact, and encourage all parties to put the interests of passengers first.”

The west London airport plans to spend more than £4 billion in the next few years on improvements, including new security lanes which will allow passengers to leave laptops and liquids in their bags, and a new baggage system for Terminal 2 – subject to a regulatory settlement that supports investment.

“We are proposing changes to our landing charges for 2023 which will support more connections to the UK’s regions and nations,” Heathrow revealed as it welcomed flights by regional carrier Loganair.

 Heathrow reported passenger throughput of 5.9 million in October represented 84% of equivalent 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

It handled 50 million travellers in the first ten months of the year, 74% of the 2019 total.

“The leisure market has been buoyant thanks to the half term getaway, with our busiest day since July, and we are also seeing the gradual return of business travellers too,” an airport statement added. 

“Strong recovery in the Middle East and Central Asia seen in October is expected to continue into November.”

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We have come so far since Omicron grounded Christmas travel plans last year. 

“Heathrow, our airline partners and their handlers are all working together to make sure everyone can be reunited with their loved ones this Christmas.”

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