Britain's Gatwick airport ends caps but Heathrow's schedule reductions continue

Gatwick was one of the first airports to limit capacity in spring as travel rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - London Gatwick airport said it will end capacity caps this month, bringing some relief to travellers as schedule reductions at the British capital's larger Heathrow hub continue through the winter season.

Gatwick, controlled by French builder Vinci SA, has hired 400 security staff to help resolve a labour crunch while delegating other workers to address shortages at airport firms including airline baggage handlers, it said on Tuesday (Aug 23).

"With additional resources across the Gatwick operation in place no further moderation of flying programs is necessary," the airport said in a statement, while upgrading its full-year passenger estimate to 32.8 million. The end to curbs provides a boost for low-cost giant EasyJet Plc, the hub's biggest airline.

The normalization of operations at Gatwick comes after Heathrow extended limits on departing passengers through October, the end of the summer season, citing a prolonged hiring crisis at ground-handling firms.

On Monday, British Airways, Heathrow's No. 1 carrier, removed 10,000 flights there this winter to cope with the staffing situation and insufficient demand on some flights to destinations with multiple frequencies.

Gatwick was one of the first airports to limit capacity in spring as travel rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic, with hours-long queues for security and numerous last-minute cancellations.

In June, the airport announced caps on departing flights during the peak summer travel season that were about 20 per cent below usual levels to ensure "a more reliable and better standard of service".

While airlines across Europe have struggled for staff, British Airways has been among the hardest hit after dismissing 10,000 workers at the peak of coronavirus lockdowns.

The unit of IAG SA was forced to offer some employees an effective 13 per cent raise to head off a threatened strike.

Shares of EasyJet traded 1.4 per cent higher as of 8.46am in London. IAG was priced up 0.6 per cent after closing 4.5 per cent lower on Monday following initial reports of its schedule cuts.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.