Emirates and London Heathrow Airport have reached a facing-saving “compromise” on what became a high-stakes game of chicken with each side blaming the other for a summer of delays and cancellations.
Emirates + London Heathrow Save Face After Row Over Passenger Caps
London Heathrow announced that it would cap the number of departing passengers at 100,000 per day for the remainder of the summer, as it found itself and its staff unable to cope with the crowds. But beyond the draconian possibility of revoking landing rights, it is not the airport but airlines which control their schedules and passenger manifests.
While other carriers seemed to grumblingly agree to the cutbacks, Emirates flat-out refused, issuing a terse statement arguing it and its passengers would not be held responsible for the poor planning of the airport and other airlines.
After extensive meetings involving Sir Tim Clark, Emirates’ President, and John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, the two have kissed and made up, with Emirates agreeing to “cap” selling more tickets but insisting upon not cancelling any flights.
Here is the joint statement issued by the two carriers:
“The President of Emirates Airline and the CEO of Heathrow Airport held a constructive meeting this morning. Emirates agreed the airline was ready and willing to work with the airport to remediate the situation over the next 2 weeks, to keep demand and capacity in balance and provide passengers with a smooth and reliable journey through Heathrow this summer.
“Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp up, and is working to adjust capacity. In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked.”
The beauty of this statement is that both sides save face and Emirates actually agrees to nothing, since it might well “cap” sales at 100%…there is no explanation of what capacity further sales will be capped.
Emirates and London Heathrow are no longer sparring partners, agreeing to set aside their differences…and do nothing. But the perception is that a compromise has been struck and if there is a compromise, it is in the careful language of both sides.
Like so many realms of diplomacy, barks tend to be worse than bites. Here, Heathrow Airport hopes to strong-arm airlines into voluntary compliance via peer pressure over passenger caps. In reality, there’s only so much Heathrow can do to force airlines to comply, short of hiring even more staff (precisely the problem) to count the number of passengers from each carrier or make the draconian move of actually revoking slots, which would lead to a bevy of legal challenges.