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BA to axe 1,000 Heathrow flights


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British Airways has just sold its 18 percent share in Australia's Qantas.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Airways is canceling almost 1,000 Heathrow flights over the next three months in a move it says will protect its operational performance.

That follows three days of embarassment for BA late last month when staff shortages at London's busy Heathrow Airport forced it to cancel flights, inconveniencing thousands of passengers.

The airline said Wednesday a total of 996 flights in and out of Heathrow are being cancelled, or about 12 flights a day out of the 540 daily flights operated by BA.

The first cancellations began on September 13, and affect domestic, European and international flights.

They include long-haul flights to the United States, Hong Kong and Africa, and busy short-haul sectors such as London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and European cities Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich and Stockholm.

BA chief executive Rod Eddington said the airline made the decision to trim its flying program by 2 percent for three months as a precautionary measure to "help ensure the robustness of our operation".

"This is about giving some leeway to our operation," he said.

"By slightly reducing our flying program we improve our ability to react effectively to the technical issues that face all airlines every day," Eddington said.

Referring to the earlier cancellations, Eddington said then the airline "got it wrong" over staffing levels at Heathrow, which is the world's busiest international airport and already operates at maximum capacity.

BA has also been under the threat of industrial action by workers, and only narrowly averted a strike before last month.

"We recognized some time ago we were short of staff in some areas and our recruitment program is now bringing new staff on line," Eddington said Wednesday.

He said the airline's revenue forecast of a 2 to 3 percent improvement for the financial year "remains unchanged".

BA picked up about £430 million (about $770 million) on Tuesday from the sale earlier this month of its 18.25 percent shareholding in Australian airline Qantas.

BA said it would use the proceeds to repay some of its debt, which stood at £5.6 billion at June 30.


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