Emirates airline has rejected an order from Heathrow Airport that it must cancel flights from the west London hub to comply with a cap on passenger numbers.

The Dubai-based carrier said it had, on Wednesday, been given 36 hours to comply with the order as the west London hub airport attempts to ensure it can operate without further delays during the summer travel peak.

This year has seen airlines and airports struggle to cope with high demand following the end of pandemic travel restrictions because of staff shortages.

Emirates said in a statement: “LHR (London Heathrow) last evening gave us 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, of a figure that appears to be plucked from thin air.

“Their communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.

“This is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands.”

It added: “Until further notice, Emirates plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR.”