Dubai's flagship airline, Emirates, hopes to engage with Heathrow Airport (LHR) to resolve the 'ongoing travel chaos' over the capping of departure numbers to 100,000 passengers. In an interview with the BBC, the president of Emirates Airlines,
Tim Clark, said, "We are going to work with them (LHR), and I am sure they will accommodate us without taking the draconian measures they suggested two days ago."
Clark said, "The travelling public must come first about the flights they booked and paid for. We have school holidays coming out of the UK… and full flights into the Indian Ocean operations, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, and such countries."
He confirmed, "We cannot afford to let our people down. We will engage with Heathrow and get it sorted within the next week or two."
Summer plans of thousands of holidaymakers were thrown into chaos after Britain's biggest airport took the unprecedented step of capping passenger numbers. The airport banned daily outbound numbers from exceeding 100,000 over fears airlines can't safely handle any more due to staff shortages.
In an open letter to passengers on the capacity cap, London Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye, said, "We assess that the maximum number of daily departing passengers that airlines, airline, ground handlers and the airport can collectively serve over the summer is no more than 100,000."
He added. "The latest forecasts indicate that despite the amnesty, daily departing seats over the summer will average 104,000, giving a daily excess of 4,000 seats. On average, only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have been sold to passengers."
Moreover, Kaye requested airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers. Following Emirates Airlines' strong objections, Kaye has been ordered by the British Civil Aviation Authority and Department of Transport to confirm by noon Friday 'a credible recovery plan' as airlines clash with the airport over flight caps.
In response to the announcement, Emirates Airlines strongly rejected demands made by Heathrow, calling them entirely 'unreasonable and acceptable'. Clark also said Emirates sold out many of the tickets in the UK sector months ago.
"This is difficult and challenging for us when many of them (tickets) have been sold out for a few months. The ability for us to re-book those passengers to other flights is impossible because they are all full. Gatwick operations are full, and other carriers are full. We are faced with a real possibility that passengers would be arriving at Heathrow and unable to travel."
He added, "This is something we (Emirates) do not do, and we do not accept these terms." Clark said the airline began its A380 operations out of Heathrow in October last year.
"We were one of the first airlines to return to a pre-pandemic schedule at Heathrow, and we've been vocal about the uptick in demand post-pandemic," he told the BBC. Clark said Emirates Airlines and Dubai Airports got into a high state of readiness to deal with growing demand.
When asked if the push-back from Emirates would put passengers at risk, Clark said, "I'm not altogether sure what Heathrow means by that. We all have obligations towards the health and safety (of passengers), be it the airline or the airport community. To my knowledge, we in Emirates and our grand handling operations dnata do not engage in the activities which compromise the safety of operations working our flights or the staff."
According to British media sources, Heathrow is only resourced up to 70 per cent capacity while passengers are returning to 80 to 85 per cent pre-pandemic levels resulting in chaos at the airport.
Clark added, "The ground handling operations for Emirates and Heathrow (dnata), we own the company that does it. Although dnata is still running at 75 to 80 per cent, they are managing everything without compromising the safety of operations."
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