British Airways axes 10,000 winter flights

In another hammer blow to the United Kingdom’s most iconic airline, British Airways plans to cut its winter short-haul operations from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) by 8% as staff shortages continue to mount.

BA’s latest bout of flight-axing affects 10,000 European short-haul services along with hundreds of long-haul services. This will equate to 4,000 seats per day at current levels, or between 1.8 and 2 million seats from late October 2022 to March 2023.

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(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The news coincides with the announcement that the controversial flight cap at the U.K. airport — which limits the number of passengers allowed through its gates to 100,000 per day — is set to remain until at least Oct. 29, with the potential to stay in place until 2023.

In addition to winter cuts, executives at BA have also revealed the airline will cut a dozen daily round trips from Heathrow (629 flights) from now until the end of October in order to fulfill its flight cap commitments. The carrier will also be “protecting key holiday destinations over half-term” as parents look to take families abroad in the final week of October.

“Following Heathrow’s decision to extend its passenger cap, we’re making adjustments to our short-haul schedule for the next two months,” a BA spokesperson added. “While the vast majority of our customers will travel as planned and we’re protecting key holiday destinations over half-term, we will need to make some further cancelations up to the end of October.”

Related: It’s official: Heathrow’s controversial passenger cap will last until late October

The airline will offer refunds, or alternative flights with British Airways or other airlines, to the affected customers, according to the spokesperson.

“In addition, we’re giving customers traveling with us this winter notice of some adjustments to our schedule, which will include consolidating some of our short-haul flights to destinations with multiple services.”

(Photo by Gareth Fuller/Getty Images)

While there’s currently no word on which services will be most hampered, the majority of planned cancellations will likely affect destinations with frequent daily services; this helps ensure that many passengers who lose their seats may still be able to fly on the same day.

Earlier this month, the airline took the unusual step of freezing short-haul ticket sales from Heathrow —a move designed to not only help meet cap quotas, but also free up space on planes for passengers whose existing bookings were canceled at the last minute.

Related: British Airways reduces Silver status requirements again — but there’s a catch

With any luck, the latest planned cancellations will run a bit more smoothly. The Civil Aviation Authority and the U.K. government have been piling pressure on the likes of BA to avoid last-minute cancellations at all costs; this is especially important after the pandemonium that engulfed airports over the Easter break and going into the peak of summer.

This has already been a year British Airways execs will likely want to forget. On top of baggage issues and tens of thousands of cancellations, they’ve also had to work behind the scenes to stop disgruntled staff members from going on strike. They recently agreed to provide a 13% pay raise to stop walkouts of 16,000 nonmanagement workers.

With the airline stating only “minimal” disruption will come from its planned winter cancellations, it’s unlikely that your own booking will be affected (not least if you’re flying long haul), but it’s not impossible. If you are flying from Heathrow on the airline soon, read up on your consumer rights below.

Can I get a refund if my BA flight is canceled?

Yes. The airline’s first port of call will be to offer customers an alternative flight, but if that’s not possible, you can claim a full refund. Not only are you protected under EU law and the UK261 rule, but British Airways will provide compensation for cancellations that are under the airline’s control.

For reimbursement on all or some of your affected journey, head to the Manage My Booking portal on BA’s website where you can make a claim.

Related: Are you entitled to compensation if your flight is affected by strikes?

If you didn’t book directly with BA, this becomes a little trickier; you’ll have to contact the tour operator or website you booked through. Remember, though, that you are covered under EU law.

What if my flight is hit by delays?

If the flight you were rebooked onto, or a return flight, is delayed, and it’s BA’s fault, you can apply for compensation under the UK261 rule. In short, this is based on the European Union’s similar EU261 rule, which offers passengers a minimum of $260.90 for delays of more than two hours on flights shorter than 932 miles. For flights between 932 miles and 2,174 miles that are more than three hours late, it offers $391.35. For four-hour holdups on flights more than 2,174 miles, it’s a $616.67 compensation.

(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images)

How can I get a refund instead of a voucher?

To ensure repeat business, the airline may try to offer vouchers for air travel at a later date. If this happens to you but you would rather get a refund, go back to the airline and ask for the amount to be paid into the bank account or card you used to book.

How else can I protect my booking?

Given the sheer number of flight cuts across the industry as a whole, it might be worth paying more for travel insurance this year, even if it’s to ensure you’re also covered for strike action. This will give you extra battle armor should you be hit by cancellations from airlines or hotels. Here’s a guide to the insurance policies your credit card may provide.

Featured photo by Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images.