British Airways has suspended selling short-haul flights from Heathrow for at least a week.
The decision to stop new bookings on domestic and European services until and including Monday is to comply with Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers, the airline confirmed.
In a statement BA said: “As a result of Heathrow’s request to limit new bookings, we’ve decided to take responsible action and limit the available fares on some Heathrow services to help maximise rebooking options for existing customers, given the restrictions imposed on us and the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”
The unprecedented move will result in thousands of seats being removed from sale and and potentially increase demand and inflate prices with rival firms.
Tens of thousands of flights have already been cancelled this summer as the industry struggles to cope with the demand for air travel amid staffing shortages.
Heathrow announced last month that no more than 100,000 daily departing passengers are permitted until 11 September.
BA had earlier responded to Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers by announcing it would cancel 10,300 flights until October, with one million passengers affected.
The suspension of BA’s short-haul flights from Heathrow comes after many passengers flying to and from the UK’s busiest airport have suffered severe disruption in recent months, with long security queues and baggage system breakdowns.
Middle Eastern airline Emirates rejected Heathrow’s order to cancel flights to comply with its cap.
The airline accused the airport of showing “blatant disregard for consumers” by attempting to force it to “deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers” through the cap.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said at the time it would be “disappointing” if “any airline would want to put profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey”.
Virgin Atlantic also criticised the airport’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures which are contributing to the chaos.
Meanwhile, on 21 July airlines were accused of “harmful practices” in their treatment of passengers affected by disruption.
The Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority issued a joint letter to carriers, expressing concern that “consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations”.
The letter stated: “We are concerned that some airlines may not be doing everything they could to avoid engaging in one or more harmful practices.”
These include selling more tickets for flights “than they can reasonably expect to supply”, not always “fully satisfying obligations” to offer flights on alternative airlines to passengers affected by cancellations, and failing to give consumers “sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights”.