British Airways could stop sales of long-haul flights to ease travel chaos

The carrier has already suspended ticket purchases for short-haul flights from the country’s biggest airport for at least a week in response to a cap on daily passenger numbers. But yesterday the airline admitted it could not rule out disruption to longhaul routes out of Heathrow either while the cap remained in place.

Such a move is likely to push prices higher and mean travellers wanting last-minute journeys to destinations such as the USA, Singapore or Dubai may be unable to find seats.

Last night Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson claimed his company could benefit because other airlines had been complacent about hiring enough staff this summer.

He said: “The time to hire for this summer was last October. This isn’t like running a warehouse, they’ve got to be part of a training process.

“Our view, which was borne out, was that when demand came back, it was going to come back in one go.”

BA operate more than half of all flights from Heathrow and restrictions are likely to damage profits.

The airport announced last month that a maximum of 100,000 people per day would be allowed to fly until September 11.

Gatwick made a similar move to reduce the number of flights that can operate from its terminals. It follows chaotic scenes at Britain’s main airports this summer, with large numbers of passengers subjected to hours-long queues, missing or late baggage and last-minute cancellations.

Alex Macheras, an independent aviation analyst, said it was “realistic” to expect that BA would also now have to cut back on long-haul flights.

He said: “With the current restrictions, caps and pressures that are being put on airlines, there is no way they could guarantee that not a single long-haul flight will be affected.While short-haul flights with multiple frequencies will always take the hit first, they also operate long-haul flights with multiple frequencies.

“So there is room there as well to trim down the schedule.”

BA said ticket sale suspensions were being dealt with on a case-bycase basis.

A spokeswoman added: “When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we took a small number of additional flights from our schedule.

“To continue to comply with the cap, we’ve been taking responsible action by limiting sales of all the available fares on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available to rebook customers.

“We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the cap.”

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