Why has British Airways stopped selling short-haul flights from Heathrow?

·3-min read
British Airways has extended its suspension of short-haul flight sales from Heathrow until mid-August (Steve Parsons/PA)
British Airways has extended its suspension of short-haul flight sales from Heathrow until mid-August (Steve Parsons/PA)

British Airways has extended its suspension of ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow until mid-August amid continued disruptions to air travel in recent weeks.

The airline initially halted sales on domestic and European destinations until August 8 to help maximise flight rebooking options for existing customers, but this suspension has now been extended to August 15.

The first bookable departures from Heathrow, to destinations such as Athens, Gibraltar and Naples, are on August 16.

Here is everything you need to know about BA’s suspension of ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow.

Why did BA suspend ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow?

Last month, Heathrow, like Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, told airlines to limit the number of tickets they sell over the summer after capping the number of passengers flying from the hub at 100,000 a day.

In a statement, BA said: “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximise rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”

This decision comes amid struggles faced by airlines and airports across Britain and Europe to cope with the rebound in demand for travel post-lockdown, with many failing to recruit enough staff.

Problems with baggage handling systems at Heathrow airport have also led to passengers seeing huge delays in reclaiming their luggage.

Heathrow’s passenger cap, put in place to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations, is set to remain in place until September 11.

How will the suspension affect ticket prices?

BA’s suspension of ticket sales already appears to have had an impact on prices.

According to flight-comparison website Skyscanner, on Tuesday morning, a direct flight from Heathrow to Barcelona this coming Saturday cost a minimum of £650, compared with £295 the following weekend.

Flights from Heathrow to Frankfurt cost upwards of £553, compared with £248 the following weekend.

The ticket sale suspension, particularly on late-booking routes such as London Heathrow to Edinburgh, has also led to a surge in fares on BA flights from other airports.

On Sunday August 7, the only available BA departure from the English capital to the Scottish capital is an evening flight from London City, at a fare of £426 for a 75-minute flight.

Other airlines, in particular easyJet, are benefiting from BA’s suspension, as they stand to pick up additional late bookings at high fares.

Flybe is selling its Heathrow-Belfast City flights on August 3 for £300 one-way, with only one small cabin bag weighing 7kg included in the fare – compared with BA’s hand-luggage allowance of 46kg.

How are other airlines responding to Heathrow’s passenger cap?

Last month, Emirates rejected Heathrow’s order to cancel flights to comply with the cap, accusing the airport of showing blatant disregard for consumers by attempting to force it to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers.

Virgin Atlantic also criticised the airport’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures that were contributing to the chaos.

A Heathrow spokesperson said it would be disappointing if any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey.

A joint letter was issued by the Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority to carriers expressing concern that consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations.

The letter stated: “We are concerned that some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices.”

These include selling more tickets for flights “than they can reasonably expect to supply”, not always “fully satisfying obligations” to offer flights on alternative airlines to passengers affected by cancellations, and failing to give consumers “sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights”.

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