British Airways has suspended ticket sales on short-haul flights departing from Heathrow. How will this affect travelers and why did they do it?

Have any other British Airways flights been cancelled?

No additional flights have been cancelled.

Are passengers being jostled? What if you have a ticket?

No. Passengers with existing reservations will still be able to travel and inbound flights will not be affected. Long-haul tickets will remain on sale.

So what did BA do?

It has simply stopped selling last-minute tickets on its short-haul flights from Heathrow to comply with the passenger cap announced by London Airport three weeks ago. BA suspended sales last weekend and have now extended them until August 8.

BA operates far more services from Heathrow than any other airline, with its own dedicated terminal, and immediately agreed to the cap, which limits passenger numbers to 100,000 a day at the airport.

What was the cap for?

The cap was intended to ensure that scheduled services could operate without delays or last-minute cancellations, as the aviation industry continues to struggle to recruit and retain enough staff to meet flight demand following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heathrow says there is a shortage of ground staff, who are hired or contracted by the airlines. This has contributed to long queues at check-ins and problems with baggage claim, with the potential for any delays or hiccups to escalate into wider chaos.

So BA’s suspension of short-haul sales was just part of that deal?

Yes. The airline says the decision will also “maximize rebooking options” for passengers bumped from flights it effectively canceled four weeks ago.

Will this continue?

Maybe. The cap is in place until September 11. BA has suspended short-haul ticket sales until August 8 for now and will keep the decision under review. The airline may well extend it during the high season – most trips abroad take place during the first weeks of the school holidays.

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Will it stop people from traveling?

Few people will be directly affected. The vast majority of summer passengers are vacationers and book well in advance. In a normal year, many peak season services are fully booked. Those who wanted to travel specifically on a BA flight at the last minute – for example frequent flyers with points – may be disappointed. But BA Heathrow’s summer rates were already prohibitive for most people – even those with enough disposable income for a summer vacation.

The capacity limit could increase airfares in general for people who left very late to book. By necessity, most short-haul destinations can be reached by alternative airlines from other London airports, or by less environmentally damaging methods, such as train, boat or car. BA’s profits will be slightly impacted by the loss of revenue from last minute bookings.