Virgin Atlantic withdraws support for Heathrow’s third runway unless charges cut

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo Credit: AviationSource/ Harrison Rowe
Photo Credit: AviationSource/ Harrison Rowe

LONDON – British carrier Virgin Atlantic has withdrawn its support for the plans of a third runway at London Heathrow as two organisations continue to row over charges.

It is said that the Heathrow authorities want to hammer the airlines with an increased landing fee of 120%, which would require the airlines’ customers to pay more.

An abuse of power

With the London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) authorities now wanting to increase landing fees by 120%, Virgin Atlantic has withdrawn their support for a potential third runway at the airport.

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, Shai Weiss, calls the move “abuse of power by a de facto monopolistic airport”, and has since asked for an urgent intervention by the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA).

Chief Executive Weiss then stated the following at an aviation conference: “Until that happens, it is difficult to see how expansion at Heathrow can be supported.”

CAA approves cost hikes

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has allegedly allowed London Heathrow (LHR) to hike charges by 56% in 2023, meaning more than £30 GBP per passenger. However, the charge hike would have to be reduced again by year 2026

Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, Shai Weiss then said Heathrow’s plan to raise charges was quote “great for the airport and its mostly foreign shareholders”, which includes Qatar and China’s sovereign wealth fund, but “a bad deal for consumers, airlines and the UK economy”.

With the Aviation 2022 conferences in London on Monday, Chief Executive Shai Weiss, spoke and said: “We have fought long and hard to ensure the CAA uses its powers to ensure this would not happen and be encouraged by the UK government to pay closer attention to the abuse of power by a de facto monopolistic airport.”

Further, Weiss adds: “ Whilst overseas carriers can more easily absorb the increasing costs of UK flights or move their aircraft and investment elsewhere, British carriers cannot.”

War of words with the airlines

London Heathrow has been in a war of words with the airlines after summer chaos and finger pointing as staff shortages left a number of flights cancelled, along with passengers arriving at destinations without their luggage.

Following all this, the airports in West London were forced to impose a daily passenger cap of 100,000 passengers per day, with the blame being on airlines not staffing up fast enough.

With thousands furloughed and fired because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer chaos this year followed the result of borders being opened again. Though, airlines still had staff shortages which were harder to resolve than first thought.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, further added: “This is not just about the next price control period in four years’ time. Everyone in this room will recognise the damage to consumer confidence that summer disruption caused.”

“A repeat of this in summer 2023 is completely avoidable if honest and accurate passenger forecasts are used now for resource planning and building resilience.”

“The regulatory framework and process is simply not working. It is broken and must be reformed”, he adds as the final.

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