Britain’s biggest airport has ordered airlines to ground dozens of flights on Monday, hitting the travel plans of more than 10,000 passengers.
Forty-eight outbound flights were cancelled, along with 15 arrivals.
British Airways, which is already canceling 18 per cent of summer flights due to resource shortages, has suspended most services.
The Heathrow departures screen shows 36 outbound domestic and European flights, including two departures each to Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. It is understood that many of these were pre-planned cancellations. Additionally, BA long-haul departures to New York JFK and Austin will show as canceled.
Virgin Atlantic has suspended flights to Austin and Delhi, while Air France has canceled its early departure to Paris CDG.
A Heathrow spokesman said on Sunday evening: “We expect higher passenger numbers in Terminals 3 and 5 tomorrow than the airport can currently handle and to maintain safe operations we have asked some airlines to remove Terminals 3 and 5 altogether 48 flights from the flight plan.
“We apologize for the impact on travel plans and are working closely with airlines to rebook affected passengers on alternative flights.”
Affected passengers are not entitled to cash compensation as the cause of the cancellation is beyond the airlines control.
Under normal circumstances, they could hope to be rebooked on other flights from Heathrow on the same day, but Virgin Atlantic says the airport has asked airlines not to offer same-day alternatives in a bid to limit passenger numbers.
Virgin Atlantic blamed “significant security delays and baggage system failures this weekend” for the cancellations.
A spokesman said: “Our teams are working hard to ensure customers can complete their trip as quickly as possible, with the option to rebook at a later date or request a refund.
“Working closely with Heathrow and partners, our shared focus is on our customers to ensure we minimize the impact on their travel.
“We are also doing everything we can to locate and return to customers any bags that have missed flights as quickly as possible and load them onto the next available services. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to affected customers.”
Meanwhile, Heathrow has published its traffic figures for the first half of the year. Between January and June 2022, the airport handled 26 million passengers – two-thirds of the 39 million who passed through Heathrow in the same six months of 2019.
The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Last month we saw an exponential growth in passenger numbers as almost six million people got away – the equivalent of 40 years of growth in just four months.
“I am very proud of how our team is meeting the challenge of growth and providing excellent service to the vast majority of passengers. However, lately we have seen periods when demand exceeds airport, airline and ground handler capacity.
“We will review the flight schedule changes submitted by airlines in response to government calls to minimize disruption to passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action as appropriate.
“We want everyone traveling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey.”
Heathrow made a similar “intervention” on June 30, canceling 30 flights.