Emirates backs down on row over “unreasonable and unacceptable” flight caps

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, speaks during a press conference at the National Press Club June 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. Clark addressed accusations by Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines that Emirates Airline is subsidized by the UAE government. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Emirates Airlines has agreed to work with Heathrow airport and cap bookings on its flights until mid-August.

Despite releasing a scathing public statement on Thursday rejecting a cap on departures from Heathrow Airport, Emirates said its president had a “constructive meeting” with the CEO of Heathrow on Friday morning and it was “ready and willing” to work with the airport.

“Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp up, and is working to adjust capacity,” the airline said in a joint statement with the airport.

“In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked.”

On Tuesday, Heathrow Airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye announced a capacity cap of no more than 100,000 departing passengers each day from 12 July to 11 September.

Holland-Kaye said that over the past few weeks the airport had seen services drop to an “unacceptable” level with long queue times, lengthy delays, misplaced or late baggage and last-minute cancellations, due to reduced punctuality as European airports struggle with record passenger numbers.

Emirates initially rejected the cap, calling it “unreasonable and unacceptable”.

“With blatant disregard for consumers, they [Heathrow Airport] wish to force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones,” the airline said on Thursday.

“And this, during the super peak period with the upcoming UK holidays, and at a time when many people are desperate to travel after 2 years of pandemic restrictions.”

The airline said Heathrow had only given it 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, “dictating” the specific flights on which the airline would have to “throw out paying passengers” and had threatened legal action for non-compliance.

Emirates said rebooking the potentially impacted passengers would be impossible with all flights running full for the next few weeks.

“LHR chose not to act, not to plan, not to 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 airline continued.

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

In 2019, the airport handled 80.9 million passengers with a daily average of 219,000, meaning the cap would represent more than a 50 per cent cut on pre-COVID numbers.

Emirates competitor Etihad told BBC News it would continue to operate its five return flights daily between Abu Dhabi and Heathrow at full capacity until the end of the month.

Image: Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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