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London-Dubai ticket sales spike despite chaos at Heathrow

Crowds at Heathrow Terminal 2 Reuters/Henry Nicholls
Passengers queue at Heathrow Terminal 2 on June 27. The airport has asked airlines to halt sales

Ticket sales for London-Dubai flights in July and August have surged above pre-pandemic levels, even as Emirates has agreed to cap bookings from Heathrow in a bid to help the airport cope with its capacity crisis.

“Current bookings, as of July 9, for July and August have climbed to 8 percent above pre-pandemic levels,” Olivier Ponti, vice president, insights at ForwardKeys, a global travel data and analytics company, told AGBI.

According to aviation analyst OAG, Dubai and Heathrow will be the busiest international airports in the world in July. Dubai leads the way with more than 4 million seats while Heathrow has nearly 3.6 million.

The surge in bookings comes as Heathrow asked airlines last week to stop selling tickets for summer departures, and capped the number of passengers at 100,000 per day.

Emirates, which operates six daily flights to Heathrow, initially rejected the airport’s demand, claiming management were being “cavalier about travellers and their airline customers”.

“Heathrow chose not to act, not to plan, not to invest. Now faced with an ‘airmageddon’ situation due to their incompetence and non-action, they are pushing the entire burden – of costs and the scramble to sort out the mess – on to airlines and travellers,” the Dubai government-owned airline said in a statement last Thursday.

In response, a Heathrow airport spokesperson told Reuters it was “disappointing if instead of working together, any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey”.

Following a meeting between Emirates and Heathrow senior executives on Friday, the Dubai airline reported that it had agreed to cap sales until mid-August.

Speaking at an industry summit in Doha last month, Emirates president Tim Clark said it had been told by Heathrow to axe an A380 flight at short notice the previous weekend, which caused a lot of disruption.

“The airport side of things have got to sort out their labour supply in critical areas of baggage, check-in, baggage systems. Get on with the job. There’s a lot of the blame game, everybody at each other’s throats … Guys, just get the job done,” he said.

“Do I see this sorting itself out over the next few months? Yes,” he added.

ForwardKeys also reported that cancellations on the London-Dubai route had increased in recent months.

“In the past five weeks, the rate of partial cancellations and modifications has increased by one percentage point from 17 percent on June 1 to 18 percent on July 9. However, prior to the pandemic, the cancellation rates at the equivalent point in 2019 were 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively,” Ponti said.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said on Friday it would operate all five daily Abu Dhabi-Heathrow return flights at full capacity until at least the end of July.

Australian airline Qantas said on Sunday that it was prepared to rearrange its flight schedule to Heathrow.