UK government issues ultimatum to Heathrow CEO over flight disruption

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The ministers issued an ultimatum to Heathrow’s chief executive, asking him to provide a plan to resolve the airport’s staffing problems, it was reported.

John Holland-Kaye has until noon Friday to assure ministers that the airport has enough workers to handle security and help disabled passengers, according to a letter from the director general of aviation, maritime and security at the Department for Transport ( DfT) and the chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) seen by the Daily Telegraph.

The airport chief has also been asked to report with a “credible and resilient capacity recovery plan for the next six months”.

DfT official Rannia Leontaridi and CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty wrote: “Heathrow and the airlines that use its airport need to be confident and able to ensure we have a plan in place that can deliver a positive experience for passengers by allowing travel as many people as possible, without too many interruptions and queues, and in particular to avoid a significant number of cancellations at short notice and on the same day.

“The government and the CAA are concerned that the current resource plans are not delivering this result.”

The ultimatum comes as Emirates defied Heathrow’s demand that airlines reduce summer flights, saying it would continue to operate its planned schedule and accusing London airport of encouraging “airmageddon”.

The Gulf carrier said the airport’s request, made in a bid to ease the travel disruption, was “totally unreasonable and unacceptable.” In a searing statement, the airline pointed the finger at Heathrow management’s “incompetence and inaction” in failing to prepare for a rebound in flights after coronavirus travel restrictions were lifted.

Heathrow announced Tuesday that it was limiting the number of daily passengers to 100,000 during the summer and telling airlines to stop selling tickets for peak season. The move was designed to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes at airports across the country at Easter and mid-term, caused by rising travel demand at a time of staff shortages.

Apologizing to those affected, Heathrow said Tuesday that the passenger limit would mean some summer flights would be moved to another day or airport or canceled altogether.

Airlines have already cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules after UK aviation authorities offered a temporary “slot amnesty”, allowing airlines to avoid losing valuable take-off and landing slots if they don’t They use them this year. The government said the move would benefit travelers by encouraging airlines to limit the number of last-minute cancellations.

Heathrow said the cuts did not go far enough, but Emirates operating six daily return flights between Britain’s busiest airport and Dubai, flying fleets of A380 superjumbos that cannot be used at smaller airports He said it was “very unfortunate” that Heathrow was giving him 36 hours on Wednesday to meet capacity reductions “from a figure that seems to come out of nowhere”.

The airline said: “Their communications not only dictated the specific flights we should drop paying passengers on, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.”

Rising demand for summer travel after two years of Covid-19 restrictions has swamped airlines and airports in Europe, which are short-staffed after many pilots, cabin crew, check-in workers and baggage handlers were fired. That has left passengers facing last-minute cancellations, long delays, lost luggage or long waits for bags.

Heathrow blames a shortage of ground staff, hired by airlines to check in passengers, load and unload bags and prepare planes for their onward journeys.

Emirates, however, said its catering and ground handling services are owned by the airline’s parent company and “are fully ready and able to handle our flights”. Instead, the blame lies with the airport’s “core systems and services,” he said.

The airline has accused Heathrow management of being “gentlemanly” with passengers and airlines, with signs of an uptick in travel having been evident for months.

Emirates said that while it had prepared for the recovery, including rehiring and training 1,000 pilots last year, Heathrow failed to act, plan or invest.

“Now, faced with an ‘airmageddon’ situation due to their incompetence and inaction, they are pushing the full cost burden and fight to fix the problem on airlines and travelers,” the statement said.

Emirates urged London Heathrow shareholders, mostly sovereign wealth funds including Qatar, to “examine the decisions of the management team”, increasing pressure on Holland-Kaye.

Heathrow said it had been asking airlines for months to help come up with a plan to solve its staffing challenges, “but there were no clear plans and with each passing day the problem was getting worse.”

The airport said in response to Emirates’ statement: “We had no choice but to make the difficult decision to impose a capacity cap designed to give passengers a better and more reliable journey and to keep everyone who works in the world safe. airport.

“It would be disappointing if, instead of working together, any airline wanted to put profits before safe and reliable passenger travel.”

It is impossible to rebook so many potentially affected passengers because all flights for the coming weeks are full, including at other London airports and on alternative airlines, Emirates said. Moving some operations to other UK airports in the short term was also unrealistic, she added.

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