London Heathrow Continues Limit On Passengers, But American Airlines Says Things Are Getting Better

Last month London Heathrow airport placed severe restrictions on the number of passengers who could fly out of the airport, in the face of staff shortages that had left to interminable waits, missed flights, and lost luggage.

Passenger limits were set to end September 11 but have been extended through October 29.

“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve,” Ross Baker, Heathrow’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

American Airlines is actually lifting is ban on nonrev passengers that had been implemented due to the caps saying that conditions are improving at the airport.

Friends and family D3 ‘buddy passes’ still can’t be used, and employees and retirees will have to clear security at specific times. But the airline believes the situation has abated to bring back nonrev flying. And they attribute this specifically to the problems faced by the airport improving.

Today they told employees,

Lifting the London Heathrow non-rev travel embargo in phases

In partnership with London Heathrow (LHR) airport stakeholders, we have made progress in alleviating some of the long security lines and baggage handling issues customers have experienced this summer. Since we have seen improvement for customers, we are phasing out the embargo of non-rev departures from LHR. Starting Aug. 22, non-rev travelers with D1 or any D2 priority will be able to list and check in for flights departing out of LHR as long as they clear LHR security lines before 8 a.m. British Summer Time (BST) or between noon and 3 p.m. BST. These time limits help American continue to meet passenger capacity restrictions implemented by LHR. Non-rev travelers flying as a D3 guest on a buddy pass remain embargoed for LHR departures through Sept. 11.

In addition to the situation at London Heathrow improving, it seems like American is betting that the end of summer will bring a lull in travel with kids returning to school but corporate business trips not fully returning to pre-pandemic levels.

With limits on employee travel this summer, as airports like London Heathrow and Amsterdam have capped passengers in the face of meltdowns, and planes have been full across the Pond, we’ve seen interesting tactics by those scrounging for a flight.

Folks on American Airlines hop over to the Mideast and use American’s flights to and from Tel Aviv and Doha to get across the Atlantic (extreme connections for US-Europe travel!) and at a minimum originate in smaller airports in order to get connecting ‘T’ priority on the standby list.

The return of London Heathrow nonrev travel is still going to present challenges. Standby travel on American’s 12:20 p.m. London – New York JFK flight will require clearing security before 8 a.m.. Catching their 7:30 p.m. departure will require clearing security before 3 p.m.. And then, of course, possibly not making the flight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Just lander after leaving T2.

    Took me 30 minutes to get in, check a bag, and get through security.

  2. Not to praise LHR’s management in any meaningful way, but the passenger cap seems to have worked in that the experience I’ve had now three times since it was implemented was perfectly normal.

  3. NB,
    airline operations around the western world are improving as staffing increases and airlines match their operations to their staffing. Very few other airports impoised mandatory caps.

    I would be interested in knowing how other airlines are dealing w/ these caps at least WRT their own employees’ travel. Since AA has operations now in Terminals 3 and 5, they share terminal space with British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic among major operators at LHR. While I believe AA is moving all of its operations back to T3, are other airlines restricting employee travel or the times through which employees can go through security?

  4. I connected in Heathrow T2 this morning (8/16). It was busy but way better than it was a month ago.

  5. Air Canada put out a press release saying that all their metrics are improving.
    And a Vancouver travel agency has been asking their customers who are returning from Europe just how it went. The great majority said it went fine. One common thread though was that it goes better if you don’t have baggage to check.

  6. I haven’t heard this directly from AA. Does this mean D1 & D2 can fly back to the US before the original September 11th date? Thanks!

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