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London’s Heathrow rules out passenger limits for Christmas

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London’s Heathrow airport, one of the world’s busiest, will not need to cap passenger numbers for the Christmas peak as it works to minimize the impact of strike action at the airport ahead of the holiday season, it said on Friday.

Hundreds of workers at the airport are set to walk out in the run-up to the soccer World Cup in Qatar this month over demands for better pay, British union Unite said last week.

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Heathrow, which had temporarily capped passenger numbers this year after it struggled to cope with a post-COVID rebound in travel, had last month said it was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years except at peak times.

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However it said it is on track to return to pre-pandemic employment levels before the summer holiday period in 2023 thanks to strong recruitment rates this year.

“We have been working with airlines and their ground handlers to prepare for the Christmas peak, and have a good plan, which will not require any capacity cap,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said in a statement.

“We are aware of potential strike action at a number of organizations, including a national Border Force strike. We are supporting organizations on contingency plans to minimize any impact.”

Passenger numbers in October reached 84% of pre-COVID-19 levels, supported by a rise in leisure travel during the school half-term break and a gradual return of business travelers.

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About 5.9 million passengers traveled through the airport in October, compared with nearly 5.8 million in September and about 3 million in October last year.

The rise in travelers at its airport this year was higher than at any other airport in Europe, said Heathrow, which had lost its status as Europe’s busiest airport during the pandemic.

Heathrow is planning investment of over 4 billion pounds ($4.70 billion) in the coming years, focusing on new security lanes and a new baggage system, and is proposing changes to its landing charges in 2023 to support more connections to the UK’s regions and other countries.

$1 = 0.8513 pounds) (Reporting by Muhammed Husain and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Angus MacSwan)

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