Government measures to help prevent last-minute flight cancellations have been welcomed by British Airways and Heathrow Airport.

Under these measures the Government will allow a one-off “amnesty” on airport slots rules, enabling airlines to plan ahead.

This aims to ensure that airlines can deliver a more realistic summer schedule with a view to minimising disruption at airports.

Airlines will be able to cancel flights without being penalised for not using their airport slot, but must finalise their summer schedule by this Friday (July 8).

It is understood that flights cancelled or removed from airline schedules after the Friday deadline will not fall under the slot amnesty.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Amnesty will be given for airlines to change flight slots up until the end of next week (PA)Amnesty will be given for airlines to change flight slots up until the end of next week (PA)

Slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports, giving airlines authorisation to take off or land at a particular airport at a specified time on a specified day.

Airlines must use slots a certain amount of times each season in order to keep them, and this “amnesty” is giving them the leeway to put a more manageable schedule in place without the risk of losing a slot due to cancelling flights.

A spokeswoman for British Airways said: “We welcome these new measures, which help us to provide the certainty our customers deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance, and to protect more of our holiday flights.”

A spokesman for Heathrow said the slot amnesty is “good news for passengers”, adding: “This amnesty will enable airlines to make early choices to consolidate their schedules, boosting the resilience of summer operations and giving passengers the confidence they deserve ahead of their journeys.

“We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.”

This week, Heathrow ordered flights to be cancelled because it could not handle them.

On Thursday and Friday (June 30 and July 1) passengers at the airport complained of long queues, cancelled flights and lost baggage as “schedule intervention” and disruptions at UK airports were exacerbated by strikes in Spain.