UAE flights: Expats face uncertainty as Heathrow airport introduces summer travel curbs

Airlines have been told to stop selling tickets over the next two months


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Wed 13 Jul 2022, 10:56 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Jul 2022, 7:33 PM

UAE residents travelling to and from London’s Heathrow airport are facing an uncertain summer as the airport put in caps for the first time ever.

On Tuesday, Heathrow capped the number of departing passengers at 100,000 a day and told airlines to stop selling tickets over the next two months in the face of baggage delays and lengthy queues as it struggles to cope with a surge in travel.

Dubai resident Tara Sillery is one of those facing the aftermath of these restrictions. “When I flew into Ireland through Heathrow last week, I was lucky enough to get my luggage,” she said. “However, one of my friends hasn’t got his bags even though it has been three weeks since he flew in through the airport.”

She is scheduled to travel from Dublin to Paris via Heathrow and has been alerted via email that her flight may be canceled. “I got an email from British Airways asking me to either rebook my flight or cancel to get a refund,” she said. “The flight hasn’t been canceled yet and I have been keeping an eye out. So, I don’t know if I will reach Paris or not. Every other airline including KLM, Ryan Air and Aer Lingus are cancelling flights. It is complete mayhem.”

She observed that one of the biggest issues was a shortage of staff. “From what I have seen, employers are struggling to find people to hire after the pandemic,” she said. “Baggage handlers are walking out because there is so much luggage and they are not paid enough.”

Over 60 flights have been cancelled by Heathrow affecting more than 10,000 passengers. This is after the airport saw a rebound in demand for travel over the summer months. The airport said it saw over 6 million passengers in June, recording a marked increase in traveller numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, a spokesperson for Etihad airways has confirmed with Khaleej Times that flights between London and Abu Dhabi are continuing to operate as scheduled.

In a statement to Khaleej Times, the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it is aware of the temporary capacity limits at Heathrow Airport and "is working with the airport authorities and the slot coordinator to understand how they will be applied".

"In the event that there is any impact, it will be communicated in due course," the spokesperson added.

Raksha Uttamchandani flew into Heathrow from Dubai with her 5-year-old earlier this month. “Since I was travelling with my child, I was escorted into the family queue,” she said. “It was really fast and I got everything done in a breeze. However, luggage was a nightmare. It took me more than an hour to get my bags. To make it worse, around my flight baggage belt, there was a home for lost luggage smack in the middle. It was absolute chaos.”

The caps on passengers is set to continue all through summer until September 11th.

Unclaimed baggages at Heathrow airport provided. Photo: Chandan Sojitra.
Unclaimed baggages at Heathrow airport provided. Photo: Chandan Sojitra.

Chandan Sojitra who travelled to London through Heathrow last week said that it was a nightmare getting through baggage claims. “It took a total of two hours for our bags to arrive,” he said. “And at 8pm they announced that the bags of passengers who came from Mumbai that afternoon were now coming out on the belt.

"Those passengers had to wait over 5 hours. What is more, they also mistakenly unloaded half the plane’s luggage on to a different belt. People were notified after waiting for more than an hour that some of their bags may be on a different belt.”


Some passengers have also been making changes to their travel plans due to the situation. Rija Ghani flew into the UK through a different airport over the weekend.

“After hearing stories and news updates about the delays at London Heathrow, we opted to fly to the UK through Birmingham airport,” she said.

“The immigration was quick and we collected our bags within 15 minutes after that. Another advantage of using this airport was that there were way less tourists compared to what you would see at Gatwick or Heathrow. So I felt like we made a wise decision”

However, some passengers have been luckier. Abu Dhabi resident Abdulla, who flew into Heathrow on Friday last week, did not face any significant delays or issues. “I am returning to Abu Dhabi tomorrow,” he said.

“So far I have not received any intimation about possible diversions or cancellations. I have heard some people have faced issues but I am hoping things will go as smoothly as it was when I came."

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