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A week is a long time in aviation. Just ask the CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), John Holland-Kaye, who has just declared that the airport’s controversial flight cap may not end for another year.

The flight cap limits departing passengers to 100,000 per day and was initially set to run until Sept. 11 before being extended last week to Oct. 29. It could now remain in place for 18 months, taking us into 2023.

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“This is not going to be a quick fix,” Holland-Kaye said. “It’s absolutely possible that we could have another summer with a cap still in place. It’s going to take 12 to 18 months, and not just at Heathrow.”

Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua/Getty Images) © The Points Guy Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua/Getty Images)

Holland-Kaye also revealed that the airport has seen a “material improvement in performance” since the cap began on July 12.

“Punctuality has improved, baggage performance has improved, and that shows that the difficult decisions we took two weeks ago are having an impact so that passengers can travel with confidence at Heathrow this summer,” he shared.

“Airline ground handler performance has been much more stable since the cap came into effect, and we have seen a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage performance.”

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Originally, the plan seemed to blindside many of the biggest operators — including Emirates, which accused airport bosses of having a blatant disregard for flyers before eventually agreeing to limit its passenger tally.


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Things became so fractious between airlines and LHR planners that many carriers simply refused to play ball, believing the cap on flyers would add further disruption to one of the most hectic periods in modern aviation.

In response, Heathrow doubled down, reportedly warning carriers they could face legal action if they failed to reduce the capacity of their flights. The cooperation of Emirates is just one example of how quickly the major players fell into place.

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A few months is one thing, but an entire 18 months is sure to shock aviation executives. Perhaps for this reason Holland-Kaye has also outlined a financial positive for airlines: They can now charge more for the limited number of seats.

“So there is a silver lining in this for them,” he added.

However, it’s fair to say that everyday travelers won’t see the positives.

(Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images) © The Points Guy (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Whether the Civil Aviation Authority will see them remains to be seen. Together with the Department for Transport, the watchdog wrote a letter to the airport after the flight cap was announced, stating:

‘The government and the CAA are concerned that current resourcing plans are not delivering this outcome with a positive passenger experience in the coming weeks, particularly as we lead into the start of the school summer holidays in England towards the end of July.”

Heathrow is also one of many airports facing major strike action throughout the summer, with the possibility of British Airways pilots walking out in the coming months.

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