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Airfares to rise as BA suspends short-haul ticket sales from Heathrow

Written by: Emma Lunn
British Airways has stopped selling tickets for departures from Heathrow Airport before 15 August in an attempt to prevent further flight cancellations.

BA said it was taking “responsible action” in response to the airport limiting passenger numbers. It said the move would “build resilience”, and that by suspending its sales of seats to domestic and European destinations it would allow existing customers to re-book flights as needed.

But experts have warned that the move will restrict consumer choice and lead to higher prices for flights.

Last month saw Heathrow tell airlines not to sell any more flights departing before 11 September. It also imposed an immediate cap on the number of passengers flying out to 100,000 a day.

The move came after several weeks of long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations.

BA cancelled more than 10,000 flights in July. However, it said it won’t be removing any further departures from the schedule under the new plans. Existing bookings won’t be affected by the move.

A BA spokesperson said: “We took pre-emptive action to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans and to build more resilience into our operation, given the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.

“When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we took a small number of additional flights from our schedule. And to continue to comply with the cap, we’ve been taking responsible action by limiting sales, or all the available fares, on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available to re-book customers.

“We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the Heathrow imposed cap so we can get our customers away as planned this summer.”

Guy Hobbs, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Following months of delays and last-minute flight cancellations that have caused misery for thousands of travellers, passengers now face this drastic, last-minute decision from British Airways to suspend flight sales. Although this move by BA will allow it more flexibility to rebook passengers in the event of further cancellations or disruption, it reduces consumer choice and will lead to significant price increases.

“With further ticket sale suspensions possible, people should consider booking as early as possible to avoid last-minute disappointment and inflated fares. They should also consider alternative airports and airlines where possible.

“Airports and airlines need to be held to account for the unacceptable disruption travellers are currently experiencing, and the government must act to ensure the Civil Aviation Authority has the power to hit operators with substantial fines in instances where they flout the rules.”

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