Emirates has rejected Heathrow’s demands for the carrier to axe flights, saying they are “entirely unreasonable and unacceptable”.
On Tuesday (July 12), Heathrow set a daily cap on departing passenger numbers for the remainder of the summer – meaning airlines will have to cancel additional flights.
It is limiting passengers to 100,000 a day – a reduction of 4,000 a day on current numbers – to tackle ongoing disruption at the airport.
Emirates issued a statement saying it was “highly regrettable” that Heathrow gave the airline 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, saying the figure “appears to be plucked from thin air”.
“Their communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance,” said the statement.
“This is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands.”
It said its ground handling and catering at Heathrow is run by dnata, part of the Emirates Group, which is “fully ready and capable of handling our flights”.
Emirates highlighted how it has reinstated six daily A380 flights to Dubai since October 2021.
“Now, with blatant disregard for consumers, they wish to force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones,” it said.
“And this, during the super peak period with the upcoming UK holidays, and at a time when many people are desperate to travel after two years of pandemic restrictions.
“Emirates believes in doing the right thing by our customers. However, re-booking the sheer numbers of potentially impacted passengers is impossible with all flights running full for the next weeks, including at other London airports and on other airlines.
“Adding to the complexity, 70% of our customers from LHR are headed beyond Dubai to see loved ones in far-flung destinations, and it will be impossible to find them new onward connections at short notice.
“Moving some of our passenger operations to other UK airports at such short notice is also not realistic.
“Ensuring ground readiness to handle and turnaround a widebody long-haul aircraft with 500 passengers onboard is not as simple as finding a parking spot at a mall.
“Until further notice, Emirates plans to operate as scheduled to and from Heathrow.”
In response, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “Aviation is a complex network and no one can operate in isolation. The network continues to suffer from Covid-related challenges.
“While many factors have resulted in the delayed flights, misconnected bags, long waits for arriving bags and last-minute cancellations at Heathrow and airports across Europe in recent weeks – a key issue is airline ground handling teams which are currently only resourced up to 70% capacity to serve passenger demand which has returned to 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels.
“For months we have asked airlines to help come up with a plan to solve their resourcing challenges, but no clear plans were forthcoming and with each passing day the problem got worse. We had no choice but to take the difficult decision to impose a capacity cap designed to give passengers a better, more reliable journey and to keep everyone working at the airport safe.
“We have tried to be as supportive as possible to airlines and our 100k cap on daily departing passengers is significantly higher than the 64k cap at Schiphol. It would be disappointing if instead of working together, any airline would want to put profit ahead a safe and reliable passenger journey.”
Meanwhile, Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten said: “The Heathrow passenger cap is an outrage for business and leisure travellers.
“The arbitrary daily passenger number has been selected done without consultation with airlines and the wider travel community.
“This is a betrayal of all UK travellers, leaving airlines, travel management companies and travel agents to pick up the pieces.
“Heathrow must be transparent about their problems and offer support for the airlines and travellers this impacts.”
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