Traveling to London This Summer? You May Need to Be Flexible

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  • London's Heathrow Airport has been inundated with passengers as travel demand soars.
  • It's imploring airlines to stop selling tickets for summer travel.

It may be more difficult than you expect to book a flight.

As a major travel hub, Heathrow Airport sees its share of airline passengers. But the airport has been overwhelmed in recent weeks, and it's looking to restrict the number of travelers it accommodates. And that could mess up some people's plans this summer.

Pushing airlines to cut back

Heathrow Airport says it needs to limit passengers to 100,000 a day until Sept. 11 to ensure travelers' safety and not have to skimp on service. To make that happen, it's asking airlines to curb tickets for summertime travel.

A number of airlines have limited the number of passengers flying in and out of Heathrow. But Heathrow's latest forecast shows that an excess number of seats have already been sold. And as a result, it's asking (or insisting) that airlines stop ticket sales immediately.

A major problem

Heathrow isn't the only large airport to struggle with increased travel demand. But unfortunately, that uptick in demand is coming when many airlines and airports are grappling with staffing shortages and limited resources.

In fact, read the news, and you'll see that canceled flights, overbooked flights, and other issues seem to be plaguing travelers more this summer than in years past. It's therefore not surprising that Heathrow went to the extreme of asking airlines to halve ticket sales.

Should you worry about traveling to London?

If you've already booked a ticket to London, your biggest concern may be having your flight canceled. That's an unfortunate possibility with air travel today. But if you're thinking of visiting London, or flying somewhere that requires a London connection, you may want to push those plans off until the peak summer travel period is behind us.

As it is, traveling during the summer often means paying a premium for tickets and risking extensive delays. If you travel when it's not as busy, you might spend less and experience less of a hassle.

If you're set on traveling to London this summer, book your flight on a credit card that offers good built-in protection, in case your plans go awry. It can also pay to purchase travel insurance, even if your credit card provides some free coverage. The coverage you get through your card may be minimal, and travel insurance could add protection.

Plus, with travel insurance, you get better coverage if you need medical care overseas. Let's not forget that while pandemic-related restrictions have eased, COVID-19 has not gone away. And at a time like this, it pays to put extra protection in place, especially when you're traveling abroad.

It will be interesting to see how airlines respond to Heathrow's directive. Some have already pushed back. And Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, had some choice words for the powers-that-be at Heathrow. "To tell airlines to stop selling -- what a ridiculous thing for an airport to say to an airline."

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