Tuesday 2 August 2022 07:15 PM British Airways extends ban on Heathrow short-haul flights until August 15 trends now
British Airways' halt on sales of short-haul flights from Heathrow Airport will last until at least the middle of August, as the airline ramped up its prices more than tenfold amid a scramble for tickets.
Sales on BA's domestic and European routes have been suspended by another week to August 15. The airline had already delayed sales to August 8 on Monday.
Experts warned today the ban on sales could last for the rest of the summer.
The move comes in response to Heathrow Airport's cap on passenger numbers, which will stay in place until September 11.
Last night, aviation experts said it was 'very possible' ticket sales would be limited for the rest of summer, including the August bank holiday.
'I've never seen anything like this before,' one senior aviation source told The Times.
Thousands have been hit by airport chaos, last-minute cancellations and travel disruption across the UK as airports including Heathrow have struggled with staff shortages.
Airlines and airports cut staff throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and have struggled to recruit enough to cope with the number of passengers over the summer this year.
In July, Heathrow told airlines to stop selling summer tickets as the airport could not deal with the number of people heading for their summer holidays.
Passenger numbers at the UK's biggest airport have been cut to 100,000 a day - 4,000 fewer than planned.
BA - the largest airline at Heathrow - said in a statement it had taken 'pre-emptive action to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans.'
'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 rebook customers.'
The cost of British Airways flights has soared after the airline announced it would stop selling tickets for short-haul flights from Heathrow
Meanwhile, the cost of remaining BA flights has soared, with a flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam on August 27 costing £511 compared to just £44 in June.
Others included London City to Nice on August 8 (£662 from £99); Gatwick to Marrakesh on August 5 (£575 from £184); London City to Berlin on August 7 (£789 from £142); Heathrow to Barcelona on August 13 (£543 from £236); and Heathrow to Athens on August 27 (£691 from £218).
Paul Charles, from the PC Agency, told MailOnline: 'What's happening is that prices are going up due to demand. A lot of people are still researching and buying tickets, and that is pushing up the price of remaining tickets. BA is yield managing as they always have done.'
But Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, suggested the dramatic price rises could be an attempt to put people off from booking.
'There is a tradition of airlines inflating air fares to absurd levels in a bid to stop people booking,' he told MailOnline.
'For example 24 hours before the collapse of Monarch in 2019, when presumably the top management and Civil Aviation Authority realised it was game over for the airline, all fares were increased by around £400 in the hope that no new customers would book and add to the scale of the problem.
'British Airways is certainly not in financial trouble, but across a wide range of flights BA wants to keep seats open in case of cancellation or – more likely – missed connections.
'My understanding is that it cannot simply close flights to further sale without messing up the ability of travel agents to amend bookings. So instead it prices flights at levels only the foolish or desperate would pay.
'Then, when an arrival from Naples is over an hour late, as mine was last week, and connections are missed, some space is still available on other airlines.
'In a perfect world, from the airlines' perspective, fares would be pitched at levels that are high but not punitive: carriers such as BA earn a fortune from late bookings.
'But right now aviation in the UK is in such a mess that it's more about damage limitation – reducing the likelihood of having to pay out a fortune for disruption and getting on the wrong side of Heathrow.'
BA has cancelled more than 30,000 flights over the summer and axed more after Heathrow last month brought in a daily departing passenger cap of 100,000. It means customers are entitled to being re-booked on to alternative services if their original flight was cancelled, and the move is to ensure there are enough seats to accommodate those affected.
Those who can't be re-booked on to a BA service will be entitled to be being given a seat on a rival carrier at great cost to the airline.
It comes after Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye warned curbs on holiday flights from the UK and European airports could continue until next summer.
Mr Holland-Kaye told the Mail: 'We've seen no change in airline behaviour towards ground handling and unless something changes radically we're going to be in the same situation in six months' time or maybe even 12 months.'
Overhead views show another busy day at Heathrow airport as passengers continue to face lengthy delays at Terminal 2
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye warned curbs on holiday flights from the UK and European airports could continue until next summer
The airport's cap disproportionately affects BA as it is the largest airline at Heathrow.
BA's decision to suspend sales will affect the whole industry, pushing up prices on rival carriers.
But it will help to stabilise the carrier's operations and reduce the risk of disruption caused by overbooking.
BA's suspension of