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Heathrow enjoys flying start to summer holiday season


London’s Heathrow Airport has enjoyed a flying start to the great summer getaway, with over one million people taking to the skies in the last 10 days, the busiest consecutive period for departures at the airport since Christmas 2019.

The top destinations so far this summer are New York, Los Angeles, and Dubai.

This is the first summer since before the pandemic that Heathrow is fully operational with all four terminals welcoming passengers and both runways open. An estimated 13 million people are expected to travel in and out of the airport between July and September.

The UK hub says: “Currently, 80% of Heathrow passengers will clear security within 20 minutes or less, although queues can be longer at our busiest times.

“It is great to have new resource joining our teams and although they may sometimes take slightly longer to check passengers than their more experienced colleagues, they are becoming more efficient with each passing week as they gain valuable experience.

“The biggest change at the airport since the re-opening of travel is in the passenger mix, with business travel numbers relatively lower and leisure travellers now making up the majority of passengers. Leisure passengers often travel with more luggage and are less familiar with travel rules which can slow their progress through the airport, particularly at check-in and security checkpoints.”

One example where this is particularly apparent is taking liquids in carry-on baggage. Heathrow’s data shows that at least 60% of bags rejected at security checkpoints are subjected to time-consuming hand searches because passengers haven’t removed all of their liquids from bags before screening, as set out by the UK government rules.

Even now, it notes, when all security lanes are open and fully resourced, these additional checks slow down the flow through security for all passengers.

In July alone, passengers are estimated to have spent an extra 2.1 million minutes more in security at Heathrow because of leaving liquids packed in carry-on bags instead of placing all liquids into a sealed plastic bag.

“We have dedicated teams of people at all security checkpoints to assist passengers with any queries they may have before screening,” says the airport.

Heathrow’s chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe, said: “My colleagues and I are thrilled to welcome so many passengers back to Heathrow again after two years of COVID cancellations and empty terminal buildings.

“The pandemic has been rough on the travel sector, but as we emerge and ramp-up operations, everyone at Heathrow is working hard to get you on your journeys.

“We’re focused on getting back to giving you the excellent service you expect every time you travel, and by following our top tips – including ensuring liquids are packed correctly, you arrive on time and you have the correct travel documents – you can help us get you into holiday mode this summer.”

Passengers rate Heathrow as one of the best airports in the world, but in recent weeks the airport has struggled to cope as passenger volumes increased beyond the collective capacity of companies across the airport to serve them.

This resulted in what the airport accepts led to an “unacceptable increase in delays to get planes on to stand, bags not travelling with passengers or being delivered very late to the baggage hall, low departure punctuality and some flights being cancelled after passengers had boarded”.

It notes that this is why it introduced a cap on daily departing passenger numbers, which it says has already led to an improvement in punctuality, shorter waits for bags to be delivered to reclaim halls and fewer cancelled flights

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