LONDON (AP) — Mixed signals are emerging about travel in Europe heading into the winter season. British Airways is cutting more than 10,000 short-haul flights in and out of London's Heathrow Airport through March, while nearby Gatwick Airport is ending its limits on the number of daily flights.
Major European airports have been chaotic this summer as people eager to travel after two years of COVID-19 restrictions ran up against staffing shortages, leading to long lines, baggage delays and flight cancellations. Airports like Heathrow, Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Gatwick capped how many passengers could fly each day or the number of flights to ease the travel mayhem over the past few months.
Gatwick said Monday that it wasn't renewing its daily flight limits , while Heathrow, Britain's largest airport, decided last week to extend its daily cap of 100,000 passengers through the end of October.
Heathrow's extension led British Airways to cancel 629 round-trip short-haul flights over the next two months. The airline also is canceling 10,000 flights departing or arriving at Heathrow from U.K. and European destinations through the end of March.
“We’ll be offering customers affected by any of these changes an alternative flight with British Airways or another airline or the option of a refund,” the airline said Monday. It added that “the vast majority of our customers will travel as planned and we’re protecting key holiday destinations.”
The cancellations come on top of thousands of flights that it initially axed in response to Heathrow’s passenger cap .
Meanwhile, Gatwick, Britain’s second-largest airport, said it has gradually increased traveler capacity and recruited more than 400 new security staffers to reduce delays.
“With additional resources across the Gatwick operation in place, no further moderation of flying programs is necessary,” airport officials said.
It had reduced flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared with a reported 900 daily flights during the same period before the coronavirus pandemic.
Gatwick expects 32.8 million passengers this year. The airport warned, however, that uncertainty around rising inflation and passenger demand this winter could affect the final numbers.