Heathrow airport will extend its cap on passenger numbers for another six weeks as the aviation sector continues to struggle to cope with demand.
No more than 100,000 travellers a day will be able to depart until October 29, the airport said.
The measures, which were due to end on September 11, now cover the half-term holidays, a popular getaway time for many families across the country.
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It means prices could go up for flights that are to be sold and existing flights having their times changed, departure airport moved or face being cancelled altogether as the airlines try to ensure they stay within the passenger limits.
Heathrow said the move was taken following an improvement in punctuality and fewer delays to passing through security and baggage reclaim after introducing a temporary cap in July.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told The Daily Mail: “The cap may be working for Heathrow and smoothing passenger journeys, but it’s causing continuing frustration for the million or so who are going to be caught up by this decision.”
John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow, told the paper the cap is necessary because airlines continue to try and operate an unrealistic number of flights. He said many are still yet to increase the number of ground-handling resources more than six months since the issues emerged.
“Unless something changes radically, we’re going to be in the same situation in six months’ time or maybe even 12 months. We really need to fix this. It’s not just Heathrow, it applies to all airports across Europe,” he said.
The consumer rights group Which? Described the situation as a “mess” and urged airports, including Heathrow, to provide clarity to flyers.
Tens of thousands of flights have already been cancelled this summer as the industry struggles to cope with demand amid staffing shortages.
The aviation sector has been hit by months of chaos since international travel resumed in the spring. British Airways has cancelled 27,900 flights this summer and this week suspended the sale of all short-haul flights from Heathrow until August 15.
Airports across Europe have also struggled to process the number of arriving aircraft, with long waits for steps and airbridges reported.
Many passengers flying to and from the UK’s busiest airport have suffered severe disruption in recent months.
Heathrow said the capacity limits would be kept under review and could be lifted earlier.
Ross Baker, chief commercial officer at Heathrow, said: “Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel.”