According to market sources, Emirates flights to the UK has been operating at near or full capacity in recent weeks. More so as many holiday travellers decided to opt for a UK trip after difficulties getting a visa for Europe. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Emirates airline on Thursday said It has rejected London Heathrow airport’s demand to comply with its capacity cuts.

“It is highly regrettable that London Heathrow last evening gave us 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, of a figure that appears to be plucked from thin air,” said an airline spokesperson. “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.”

London Heathrow, the world's busiest airport, has imposed a two-month cap on daily passenger traffic, as airlines and ground crews struggle to process a surge in travel demand. Due to the staff shortages, airlines have had to cancel thousands of flights over the last few months, causing massive inconvenience to travellers.

“With blatant disregard for consumers, they 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,” said Emirates. “Until further notice, Emirates plans to operate as scheduled to and from London Heathrow.”

‘Cavalier’ attitude

Emirates said that re-booking the sheer numbers of potentially impacted passengers is impossible with all flights running full for the next weeks, including at other London airports and on other airlines. Around 70 per cent of the airline’s customers from London Heathrow are headed beyond Dubai to ‘far flung’ destinations, and it will be impossible to find them new onward connections at short notice, said Emirates.

“Moving some of our passenger operations to other UK airports at such short notice is also not realistic,” the airline said. “Ensuring ground readiness to handle and turnaround a widebody long-haul aircraft with 500 passengers onboard is not as simple as finding a parking spot at a mall.”

Emirates said that London Heathrow’s management is ‘cavalier’ about travelers and airlines 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.”

“London Heathrow 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 travelers,” said Emirates.

Emirates urged the shareholders of London Heathrow to scrutinise the decisions of the airport’s management team. The airline added that the crux of the issue lies with the central services and systems operated by the airport. “Our ground handling and catering – run by dnata - are fully ready and capable of handling our flights.”

Emirates has been operating six daily A380s to London Heathrow since October 2021. “From our past 10 months of regularly high seat loads, our operational requirements cannot be a surprise to the airport,” said the airline.