The suspension of sales by British Airways at London Heathrow has been extended to August 15 and will impact both long-haul and short-haul flights.
The airline says it has taken the “pre-emptive action” in order to make sure it is compliant with a capacity cap being imposed by the airport to alleviate disruption over the peak summer season.
Although the suspension is predominantly focussing on short-haul flights, it will also impact long-haul services on some dates and routes.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said BA’s suspension of last-minute sales was “very disappointing”.
“Confidence is vital and, as we approach the end of the summer holiday period, it has never been more important for business travel,” he said.
“British Airways’ suspension of last-minute sales, many of which would have been made to business travellers, is very disappointing, even if the circumstances that caused it are outside of their control.
“It’s vital that all elements of the travel industry work together to deliver robust and reliable services to business and leisure travellers alike. Without the complete collaboration of key travel infrastructure such as airports, traveller confidence will be eroded.”
Julia Lo-Bue-Said, Chief Executive, Advantage Travel Partnership, said BA’s move was a “further blow to consumer confidence at this challenging time”.
“The late notice of changes and the lack of advance communication is only adding to the anxiety that travellers must be feeling,” she said.
“Whilst we understand that no airline wants to make any sudden changes to their flight schedules at short notice, airlines who are making these last-minute changes to schedules must urgently look to improve their communication to passengers and their agent partners.
“These constant changes to bookings continue to provide our members with the daunting task of finding alternative flights, and usually with no additional revenue.
“Let’s hope that after the main Summer holidays the industry can take further steps to ensure a more smooth running of services for all business and leisure travellers as we approach the Winter months.”
BA claims its approach will protect existing bookings and give customers certainty about their travel plans.
In a statement it said: “When Heathrow introduced its passenger cap, we took a small number of additional flights from our schedule and to continue to comply with the cap, we’ve been taking responsible action by limiting sales or all the available fares on some of our Heathrow services to ensure more seats are available to rebook customers.
“We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the Heathrow imposed cap so we can get our customers away as planned this summer.”
Heathrow has introduced a passenger cap of up to 100,000 departing passengers a day until September 11.
Other airlines have already taken steps to comply with the capacity restrictions. Despite initially refusing to comply, Emirates later agreed to cap further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August and KLM did the same earlier this summer.