The aviation industry was worst affected by the COVID-19-induced pandemic, which disrupted air travel for over two years. Even as things are taking a turn for the better and most countries are welcoming passengers, Heathrow Airport is still grappling under the aftermath of the pandemic. This has led to a fierce face-off between the UK's busiest airport and Emirates.
Heathrow Airport on Tuesday introduced an unprecedented 100,000 limit on daily departing passengers until September and ordered airlines to stop selling summer tickets as airports battle against a staffing crisis. This order did not go down well with Emirates, which operates six daily flights between Dubai and Heathrow alone.
UAE's flag carrier has refused to comply with the order from Heathrow despite being threatened with legal action if it continued to operate on schedule. The Dubai-based carrier was given 36 hours to comply with the capacity cuts, but Emirates said it plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR.
"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," Emirates said in a statement on Thursday.
The airline accused the airport of showing blatant disregard for consumers by forcibly denying seats to tens of thousands of paid passengers.
Chaos shadows Heathrow
Heathrow's order will only lead to more cancellations on top of the thousands of flights axed in recent months. Affected passengers will not be entitled to compensation as the reason for the cancellations will be classified as being outside the control of airlines.
Passengers have been hit by delays and cancellations at airports across the UK due to a shortage of staff after thousands were laid off or left the industry during Covid. On Monday, Heathrow cancelled another 61 flights at the last minute - disrupting 10,000 passengers, Daily Mail reported.
And in a fresh sign of chaos, easyJet passengers 'mutinied' after being forced to wait for four hours on the Gatwick Airport runway yesterday. The plane never even departed and they had to wait 'until midnight' to collect their luggage after being returned to the terminal.
Announcing the passenger cap, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said on Tuesday: "Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable."
Problems include long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations, Holland-Kaye said, Daily Mail reported.