CMA makes final ruling on Heathrow price control appeals

A view across the busy taxiways at Heathrow airport.
Mike McBey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a summary of its final determination after Heathrow Airport and 3 airlines – British Airways, Delta Air Lines, and Virgin Atlantic Airways – appealed a price control decision from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Recent developments in the United Kingdom’s aviation industry brought to the forefront a case involving Heathrow Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the three major airlines.

At the heart of this matter lies a complex pricing decision, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now provided a final determination.

The CMA’s Critical Role

Before we dive into the specifics of this particular case, it’s essential to understand the pivotal role the CMA plays in the aviation industry.

The CMA, as the appeal body for pricing decisions made by the CAA, acts as a regulatory checkpoint, ensuring that pricing determinations are just and well-balanced.


Airlines and airports affected by the CAA’s decisions can directly challenge these decisions with the CMA.

It’s important to note that the CMA’s role is not to re-evaluate the CAA’s decisions from scratch but to scrutinize whether the regulator made specific errors in its assessment.

This process is vital in maintaining a competitive and sustainable aviation market.

The Heathrow Pricing Decision Appeal

At the heart of this appeal lies Heathrow Airport’s pricing decision. The CAA had previously established a pricing structure that determined how much Heathrow Airport could charge airlines per person for using its services.

This pricing decision is crucial, as it has a significant impact on the cost structure of airlines, which, in turn, affects ticket prices for passengers.

It’s a delicate equilibrium that must be maintained to keep air travel accessible while also allowing airports to invest and enhance their facilities.

The CMA’s Verdict

In the course of these appeals, the CMA conducted a comprehensive review, aiming to strike the right balance.

The CMA’s role was to ensure that the CAA’s pricing control did not result in excessive costs for passengers while still incentivizing investors to support Heathrow Airport’s growth and development.

After meticulous consideration, the CMA found that, broadly, the CAA’s pricing control was on the right track.

Broadly speaking, the CMA has found that the CAA was not wrong on most of the issues that were appealed to it, but has ordered the CAA to reconsider 3 parts of its pricing decision.

Kirstin Baker, Chair of the group overseeing the appeals, offered insights into the CMA’s verdict. “Having considered these appeals, we found that the CAA’s Heathrow price control struck broadly the right balance between ensuring prices for passengers are not too high and encouraging investors to maintain and improve the airport over time, “ Baker said.

“There are a handful of smaller issues we have ordered the CAA to look at again and it has agreed to do this swiftly,” she concluded.

The CMA’s Call for Reconsideration

While the CMA was generally satisfied with the CAA’s pricing control, there were a few aspects of the decision that raised concerns.

In the interest of ensuring fairness and precision, the CMA remitted three specific elements of the pricing decision back to the CAA for reconsideration. The CMA’s decision calls for the CAA to review these aspects promptly.

Details on the final determination can be found on the CMA’s dedicated webpage: H7 Heathrow Airport Licence modification appeals.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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