'Unreasonable and unacceptable': Furious Emirates refuses to cut flights from Heathrow

Emirates has rejected an order from Heathrow that the airline must cancel flights to and from the west London airport to comply with a cap on passenger numbers.

The Dubai-based carrier said that on Wednesday it had been given 36 hours to comply with Heathrow's order, as the airport attempts to ensure it can operate without further travel delays during the summer travel peak.

Airlines and airports globally have struggled to cope this year with high demand after the lifting of pandemic travel restrictions because of staff shortages.

Heathrow argues that airline ground-handling teams are yet to recover sufficiently to cope with booking volumes.

Emirates, which operates six daily flights between Dubai and Heathrow alone, said: "LHR [London Heathrow] last evening gave us 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, of a figure that appears to be plucked from thin air.

"Their communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.

"This is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands."

It added: "Until further notice, Emirates plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR."

Heathrow announced this week that despite airlines' own cuts to flights - many under the government's slot amnesty - it was imposing its own cap that would limit departing passenger numbers to 100,000 a day until mid-September.

It amounts to a cut of 4,000 passengers.

Heathrow also pleaded with its airline "partners" to stop selling additional tickets to help with that effort and minimise the effect on passengers and their own operations.

The demand prompted a furious reaction from airlines, with the head of an industry body accusing Heathrow of attempting to maximise its profits at their expense.

That sentiment has been echoed by Virgin Atlantic while BA, which has taken full advantage of the slot amnesty, responded by agreeing to cut six further short haul flights daily.

Emirates added: "The bottom line is, the LHR management team are cavalier about travellers and their airline customers.

"All the signals of a strong travel rebound were there, and for months, Emirates has been publicly vocal about the matter.

"We planned ahead to get to a state of readiness to serve customers and travel demand, including rehiring and training 1,000 A380 pilots in the past year.

"LHR chose not to act, not to plan, not invest. Now faced with an 'airmageddon' situation due to their incompetence and non-action, they are pushing the entire burden - of costs and the scramble to sort the mess - to airlines and travellers.

"The shareholders of London Heathrow should scrutinise the decisions of the LHR management team."

Heathrow said its cap was linked to shortages within airline ground-handling teams operating at 70% of normal capacity when demand stood at up to 85%.

"For months we have asked airlines to help come up with a plan to solve their resourcing challenges", the airport said, "but no clear plans were forthcoming and with each passing day the problem got worse.

"We had no choice but to take the difficult decision to impose a capacity cap designed to give passengers a better, more reliable journey and to keep everyone working at the airport safe.

"We have tried to be as supportive as possible to airlines and our 100k cap on daily departing passengers is significantly higher than the 64k cap at Schiphol.

"It would be disappointing if instead of working together, any airline would want to put profit ahead a safe and reliable passenger journey."