Etihad Airways on Friday said it would operate all five return daily Abu Dhabi – London Heathrow flights at full capacity until at least the end of the month despite a request by Britain’s busiest airport for airlines to cut capacity to ease congestion.
Heathrow told airlines last week to stop selling some tickets for summer flights, limiting the total number of daily passengers flying from the hub to 100,000 to ease pressure on the airport’s operations which have been unable to keep up with demand.
“We will be operating all five of our daily flights to and from London at full capacity through to the end of July and are awaiting further information on the airport’s longer-term plans for August,” an airline spokesperson said in an email.
The airline has made some changes to services since Heathrow said it was limiting capacity, which has included rescheduling some services to operate outside peak periods at the airport.
“Our priority over the coming months is to maintain the resilience of our operation and to protect the travel plans of our customers flying to and from (Heathrow),” Etihad said.
A Heathrow spokesperson did not directly address the Etihad announcement, instead repeating remarks made by the airport earlier this week that Heathrow was forced to impose cuts after months of consultations with airlines failed to find a solution.
The airport has said staff shortages were the main issue.
Heathrow and other European airports have capped passenger numbers to ease flight delays and cancellations caused by surging demand and staff shortages following huge layoffs during the pandemic.
Dubai’s Emirates last Thursday said it would not cut its six daily return flights to Heathrow, despite saying the airport had threatened legal action if the Gulf carrier did not comply.
Etihad, like Emirates, relies on international passengers travelling on connecting flights through its hub.
The state-owned airline does not have a domestic market that can cushion against any dip in international travel.
Meanwhile, Qantas has been forced to change its schedule out of London to avoid cancelling flights following Heathrow’s decision.
Tuesday’s QF2 service to Sydney will depart 9 hours earlier than scheduled, taking off at midday from terminal 4, instead of terminal 3. The result of an earlier departure is an 11-hour stopover in Singapore, during which time travellers will be provided with hotel accommodation.
However, QF2’s estimated arrival time in Sydney would remain the same – at 5.10 am on Thursday.
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