Yesterday’s announcement by the UK civil aviation authority (CAA) which has directed London Heathrow Airport to cut charges imposed on airline operators has come as a boon to both airlines and air travellers. However, the directive issued to the airport has not been welcomed by all.
Back Heathrow, a campaign group representing residents living near the major airport has expressed concerns for local residents and businesses.
Heathrow charges – prior history
As airports and air service operators have moved out of the global pandemic era of severe travel and border restrictions, the London airport charges have been a point of contention which have been challenged by several airlines.
Notable amongst these critics are the major airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. In October 2021, the CAA had announced a plan to raise the cap on the airport’s average charge per passenger by up to 76 per cent.
In November 2021, the chief executive of British airway’s parent company IAG responded by warning of cuts to Heathrow services by the national flag carrier if airport charges were not reduced.
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego voiced his criticism, saying that Heathrow air fees were already amongst the highest in the world.
He stated at the time: “If the rise in landing charges goes ahead, I know IAG will not be alone in reconsidering our airlines’ use of Heathrow.”
Yesterday’s CAA directive
Yesterday, the UK aviation regulator directed Heathrow to make cuts to charges imposed on airlines using the facility.
The reasoning for the direction was based on the fact that passenger numbers were recovering faster than expected in the post-pandemic period.
Currently the average charge applied per passenger is £31.57. Under yesterday’s CAA directive this will fall to £25.43 in 2024 and remain at that level until the end of 2026.
These benefits will potentially flow on to airline passengers in the form of reduced ticketing costs in 2023.
According to the UK national broadcaster BBC, it is understood that Heathrow management had wanted charges to raise to approximately £40, whereas airlines proposed the cost should be no more than approximately £18.50.
Back Heathrow concerns
Back Heathrow, the campaign group that represents over 100,000 residents that live close to the airport, has formally expressed concerns about the CAA decision on how much Heathrow can charge airlines.
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “During Covid tens of thousands of people were furloughed in the boroughs around Heathrow, because when Heathrow struggles we all suffer.”
“At a time when the airport has started creating jobs again and funding over £1m a year for local community projects, local boroughs need to see stability at our biggest provider of jobs and prosperity.”
Mr Dhanda added: “Through Covid, we learnt the hard way that local councils and local people need a strong, vibrant Heathrow Airport, so we’re disappointed with the CAA’s decision and hope it’s not too late for a rethink.”
“Backward steps for Heathrow only lead to growth at international hub rivals, like Paris and Frankfurt – which is bad for local people and businesses.”
Further information on the CAA proposal for Heathrow can be found here.