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Major International Airport Asks Airlines to Stop Selling Tickets, Puts Cap on Daily Passengers

Heathrow Airport will begin imposing a passenger cap effective through mid-September.

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It's been a turbulent time to fly, with flight delays and cancelations, limited routes, staffing shortages, and other issues that have been plaguing the airline industry for months.

Andrew Holt | Getty Images

That's why, starting July 12, Heathrow Airport is capping the number of departing passengers.

The international hub is limiting passengers to 100,000 per day in an attempt to slow down foot traffic in and out of the international hub. In 2019, Heathrow saw on average between 110,000 and 125,000 daily passengers between July and August.

The airport is blaming staffing issues and an inability to get back to functioning pre-COVID levels as the primary reason for the passenger cap, noting that security wait times, delays, and last-minute cancelations are at "not acceptable" levels.

Related: JetBlue Announces Major Shift for the Summer After Hundreds of Flight Cancellations

"New colleagues are learning fast but are not yet up to full speed," Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye penned in an open letter to passengers. "However, there are some critical functions in the airport which are still significantly under resourced, in particular ground handlers, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft. They are doing the very best they can with the resources available and we are giving them as much support possible, but this is a significant constraint to the airport's overall capacity. "

Heathrow cited that daily departing seats will average 104,000, about 4,000 seats more than the cap will allow for. Since the airport on average has only sold about 1,500 of these daily tickets, Heathrow has asked airlines to stop selling tickets.

The airport is expected to have its security staffed and back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of July. The passenger cap is set to stay in effect through September 11.

Related: I Was On One of Delta's Canceled Flights: Inside LaGuardia Chaos

In 2021, Heathrow reported its worst year since 1972 with passenger numbers plummeting to 19.4 million, making it the only European hub to see traffic reduce last year solely based on tighter travel restrictions than other countries in the EU.

Many airports and airlines have been feeling the heat (no pun intended) amid the summer months as travel surges.

Last month, New York's LaGuardia Airport canceled thousands of flights in a two-day period due to staffing issues and overcrowding, leaving passengers stranded and delayed.

Other airlines have made tough scheduling decisions amid the chaos, with U.S. carriers like Delta announcing they would be canceling around 100 flights a day in July and August (citing lack of staffing) as well as JetBlue and Alaska Airlines also telling passengers that they would be cutting flight schedules throughout the summer.

The IATA estimates that by the end of 2022, global airlines will bring in around $782 billion in revenue, a 54.5% increase year over year but still a -6.7% change since pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

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