Heathrow’s sudden decision to impose a passenger cap has pushed one-way Qantas flights from Sydney to London up to $2,800 — travelling on economy.
It comes as the UK’s biggest airport told airlines to “stop selling summer tickets” up until 11 September to deal with staff shortages.
Emirates called the decision “airmageddon” while Qantas said it was “disappointed” with its move to “suddenly” reduce capacity.
The reduction appears to have caused the price of all tickets to increase to prices far higher than seen in 2019.
Australian Aviation saw one-way, economy flights between Sydney and London on Qantas regularly sell for more than $2,500, with prices hitting nearly $2,800 on 26 August via Singapore.
Prices from Sydney travelling via Melbourne were selling for up to $3,000.
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said “Our assessment is that the maximum number of daily departing passengers that airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport can collectively serve over the summer is no more than 100,000.
“The latest forecasts indicate that even despite the amnesty, daily departing seats over the summer will average 104,000 — giving a daily excess of 4,000 seats.
“On average, only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.
“By making this intervention now, our objective is to protect flights for the vast majority of passengers at Heathrow this summer and to give confidence that everyone who does travel through the airport will have a safe and reliable journey and arrive at their destination with their bags.
“We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled, and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.”
Qantas has already had to temporarily change some flights from London to Sydney via Singapore, paying to put passengers into accommodation because of a long layover.
“Like all airlines, we’re disappointed at the decisions made by Heathrow Airport to suddenly reduce passenger capacity, and we are doing all we can to minimise the impact of this on our customers,” the airline said.
“We have two flights a day to London, and we want to preserve them at all costs, given people’s travel plans are at stake.
“We’ve managed to negotiate a workaround that isn’t perfect but will get our customers to their destination. We continue to work with Heathrow on improving this situation.”
During Sydney and Melbourne’s long winter lockdown last year, one-way flights between London and Sydney were selling for more than $43,000 after arrival caps were reduced.
The caps meant customers could only travel via business.