Emirates has rejected an order from Heathrow that the airline must cancel flights to and from the west London airport to meet a limit on the number of passengers.
The Dubai-based airline said it had been given 36 hours on Wednesday to comply with Heathrow’s order as the airport tries to ensure it can operate without further travel delays during peak summer travel.
Airlines and airports around the world have struggled to cope with this year’s high demand after the lifting of pandemic travel restrictions due to staff shortages.
Heathrow argues that airline ground handling teams have not yet recovered enough to cope with booking volumes.
Emirates, which operates six daily flights between Dubai and Heathrow alone, said: “LHR [London Heathrow] last night he gave us 36 hours to comply with the capacity cuts, a figure that seems to come out of nowhere.
“Their communications not only dictated the specific flights we should kick paying passengers off of, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.
“This is totally unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands.”
It added: “Until further notice, Emirates plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR.”
Heathrow announced this week that despite flight cuts by the airlines themselves – many under the government slots amnesty – it was laying on his own cap that would limit the number of departing passengers to 100,000 per day until mid-September.
It is equivalent to a cut of 4,000 passengers.
Heathrow also asked its airline “partners” to stop selling extra tickets to help with that effort and minimize the effect on passengers and its own operations.
The lawsuit caused a furious reaction of airlines, with the head of an industry body accusing Heathrow of trying to maximize profits at his expense.
Virgin Atlantic has echoed that sentiment, while BA, which has taken full advantage of the slot amnesty, responded by agreeing to cut six more daily short-haul flights.
Emirates added: “The bottom line is that the LHR management team is cavalier with travelers and their airline customers.
“All the signs of a strong rebound in travel were there, and for months Emirates has spoken publicly about the matter.
“We planned ahead to reach a state of readiness to serve customer and travel demand, including rehiring and training 1,000 A380 pilots last year.
“LHR chose not to act, not to plan, not to invest. Now, facing an ‘airmageddon’ situation due to their incompetence and lack of action, they are shifting all the burden, the cost and the fight to fix the problem, to the airlines and travelers.
“London Heathrow shareholders should review the decisions of the LHR management team.”
Heathrow said its limit was related to a shortage of ground handling equipment from airlines operating at 70% of normal capacity when demand was as high as 85%.
“For months we have been asking airlines to help come up with a plan to solve their resource challenges,” the airport said, “but there were no clear plans and with each passing day the problem was getting worse.”
“We had no choice but to make the difficult decision to impose a capacity cap designed to give passengers a better, more reliable ride and to keep everyone who works at the airport safe.
“We have tried to be as supportive as possible to airlines and our limit of 100,000 departing passengers daily is significantly higher than the limit of 64,000 at Schiphol.
“It would be disappointing if, instead of working together, any airline wanted to put profits before safe and reliable passenger travel.”