The President of Emirates Airlines, Sir Tim Clark, has renewed his criticism of the Chief Executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye.
Responding to questions at the Ultra Travel Forum, Sir Tim said that the prospect of a ‘cap’ on departing passenger numbers over Christmas would mean that he would “probably get a bit cross.”
Clark said that Emirates was seeing strong demand and was effectively ‘full’.
“We are seeing strong pressure for all our services and our new premium economy cabin has been full since we started it.”
Emirates has “six A380s a day going into Heathrow” Clarke said, with services to Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow “all running very full.”
Against this background, the prospect of a cap at Christmas is one that is causing widespread anger amongst airlines using the airport.
Clark said, “Heathrow is an airport that had the benefit of government support in the years that everybody else did. Initially it was reluctant to do what we did, which was get things going and hope that everything came back. They could have done that. They could have had shareholder intervention with lots of cash etc so [John] is behind the curve at the moment.”
Clark added, “In December and January particularly with the World Cup and with our flights so full that you can’t get a seat, I don’t find it excusable to be asked by him to effectively cut back 15 per cent on every one of those flights. [It would mean] effectively leaving one A380 on the ground without passengers.”
Clark said that Holland-Kaye “…should have by now upgraded all the human resource he needs to make Heathrow work. He’s had plenty of time. We all faced problems, the whole hospitality industry has faced problems with regard to supply shortages.”
“Heathrow is the jewel in the crown of British civil aviation and it’s not something you can allow to be marginalised to the views of the shareholders of that business. You have the obligation to ensure that the airport continues to operate and support the airlines coming in.”
“It doesn’t pass muster with me to be told “you lot [the airlines] are making money therefore you should do this and this and that”. I say “John, you can make as much money as you like, just get the airport running and we can argue the toss about the money later, but just open it so people can travel. That’s the sort of ‘can-do’ attitude we need from Heathrow.”
Airlines using Heathrow are increasingly concerned with the possibility of the cap on passengers this winter, especially since most are seeing extremely high load factors, meaning aircraft are close to full, and fares extremely high.
If an airline has a passenger cap imposed on it by Heathrow it would mean not only disappointing passengers at the last minute as they ready for holidays or for trips home, but also possibly having claims for cancelled hotels and other costs associated with that travel.
In calls between the airport and the airlines in recent weeks, airlines have been asked to draw up contingency plans for restricting passenger numbers, but with the tickets already sold, there is continuing frustration with Heathrow.
The airport has previously said that it is “working with airlines to agree a highly targeted mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on a small number of peak days in the lead up to Christmas. This would encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks, and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures.”