Delta Air Lines packed the aircraft with baggage belonging to customers whose flight to the US had been cancelled.
In a move described by the carrier as a “creative solution”, the Airbus A330-200 flew to Detroit on Monday and the bags were then transported to their owners across the United States.
“We’ve gone as far as recently we had a separate charter just to repatriate bags back to customers that have been stranded because of some of the operational issues,” Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said on a conference call to discuss quarterly financial results.
The operation was launched after Delta cancelled a regular scheduled Heathrow to Detroit flight. Passengers were moved to other flights and an empty plane was used to carry the stranded luggage.
A Delta spokesperson said: “Delta teams worked a creative solution to move delayed checked bags from London-Heathrow on July 11 after a regularly scheduled flight had to be canceled given airport passenger volume restrictions at Heathrow.”
Many passengers flying to and from the UK’s busiest airport have suffered severe disruption in recent months, with long security queues and baggage system breakdowns.
British Airways announced it will cancel six additional daily short-haul flights over the next fortnight in response to the cap.
It has already axed tens of thousands of flights over this summer.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said a significant factor in the constraint on passenger numbers was a lack of ground staff, who are contracted by airlines to provide check-in staff, load and unload bags and turnaround aircraft.
The airport boss apologised for the impact the capacity cap would have on holidaymakers, with the capacity cap covering the summer holidays.
“By making this intervention now, our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags,” he said.
“We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.”