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Heathrow chaos affects India flights too; Virgin Atlantic cancels a Delhi service today


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Heathrow Airport has introduced a cap on passenger numbers this summer as the aviation sector struggles to cope with demand for travel. (Photo: PTI)

NEW DELHI: Passengers booked on flights between India and London Heathrow (LHR) this summer face an uncertainty over their travel plans. With Heathrow restricting capacity to a lakh passengers daily due to severe constraints, the India flights — operated by Air India (AI), Vistara, British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VA) — could also get impacted.
VA, for example, had to cancel its Thursday LHR-Delhi flight. BA says it will need to “take a small number of additional flights out of our (overall, not just India) schedule and we will be contacting customers to apologise, advise them of their customer rights and offer options including rebooking or refund.”
“We have been asked to cut flights this summer. We have sought clarification from Heathrow on the duration they expect the problem to remain as the summer schedule in India is in force till October-end. We are right now trying to see how we can minimise disruptions for passengers,” said a senior official of one of the four affected airlines.
Air India is the biggest operator with 34 weekly flights between India and the UK — 33 ex several India cities to and from LHR and one Amritsar-Birmingham. AI did not comment on the issue. It has an advantage of operating to Birmingham and travel industry insiders do not rule out AI operating more flights to Birmingham or add new station like Manchester to ride over the Heathrow crisis. AI’s sister concern Vistara has a daily service to LHR.
A VA spokesperson said: “Due to mandatory flight capacity restrictions being implemented by Heathrow Airport on all airlines on Thursday (July 14), we’ve regrettably had to cancel one of our Heathrow–New York (JFK) return services; and our morning departure to Delhi, flight VS302. We’re contacting affected customers and will rebook them on to an alternative service on the same day wherever possible, with the option to rebook on a later date or request a refund.”
“We recognise the challenges Heathrow faces serving customers who are looking forward to travel over the summer. It’s imperative that all players involved come together to ensure customer journeys out of Heathrow are as smooth and seamless as possible. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to affected customers,” Virgin Atlantic, which has a double daily between Delhi and LHR and a daily between Mumbai and Heathrow, said.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “This is incredibly disappointing news for our customers, coming at a time when we’ve already taken responsible action to reduce our summer schedule to slim our programme further, utilising slot alleviation to minimise disruption, provide certainty for travellers and help airports manage their resource.”
“As a result of Heathrow’s request, we will now need to take a small number of additional flights out of our schedule and we will be contacting customers to apologise, advise them of their customer rights and offer options including rebooking or refund. We also know that some customers may want to review their travel plans in light of the current travel challenges and have introduced a policy that will allow customers to easily change travel dates so that they have additional flexibility,” BA said.

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