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Airlines UK response to proposed Heathrow passenger charge increases

November 20th, 2021

Great British Rip-Off: Airlines issue stark warning to regulator that Heathrow already charges more per passenger than every other major airport in the world and allowing its sky-high fees to take-off again will hike its fares to double that of Charles de Gaulle in Paris, hurting customers and UK’s economic recovery 

  • UK’s airport regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), is deciding whether to allow Heathrow to charge up to £30 per passenger to use its airport from January next year – with the potential to increase again in the summer
  • Heathrow had asked for almost £45 per passenger
  • Airport is already one of the most expensive in the world and its greed could divert tourists and investors to other European hubs – channelling money away from the UK

It’s already the most expensive airport anywhere in Europe yet the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is contemplating just how much Heathrow should be allowed to increase its charges per passenger, with the fee set to rise from around £19 this year to £30 from January 2022, and the potential for this fee to rise further.

Last month the regulator ruled out the doubling of charges proposed by the airport, but said Heathrow could still be allowed to increase charges to £30 per passenger at the start of the year and up to £34.40 from next summer, a staggering 75% increase on today’s rates.

It means the cost of travel for passengers could rise with airlines unable to absorb the entirety of the charges. The charge per passenger is based on the airport’s prediction of the cost of what a passenger uses during their journey, including airport security, water and energy costs, etc.

While airlines have tapped investors rather than customers for loans to help them survive the global pandemic, Heathrow has taken a very different approach – charging higher passenger fees for trips being taken now, to cover the cost of flights that weren’t taken during the crisis, and borrowing more money that it expects customers to pay back through this increased charge.

Heathrow’s charges are already the highest in the world. This latest hike would come at a time when Heathrow’s international competitiveness has seen it fall to the sixth busiest airport in the world, behind the likes of Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

And while fees charges by its European competitors’ have mostly remained flat or fallen, Heathrow has chosen to inflate the fees it charges so that next year it is likely to be more than twice as expensive as some other hubs.

AIRPORT Today’s charge per passenger* Proposed 2022 charge per passenger*
Heathrow £19.36 £29.50
Zurich ⇓ 31% less than Heathrow ⇓ 48% less than Heathrow (Heathrow is 1.9x more expensive)
Frankfurt ⇓ 31% less than Heathrow ⇓ 45% less than Heathrow (Heathrow is 1.8 x more expensive)
Paris ⇓ 41% less than Heathrow ⇓ 53% less than Heathrow (Heathrow is 2.1x more expensive)
Madrid ⇓ 52% less than Heathrow ⇓ 63% less than Heathrow (Heathrow is 2.8x more expensive)
Amsterdam ⇓ 51% less than Heathrow ⇓ 58% less than Heathrow (Heathrow is 2.4x more expensive)

*Source: Today’s charge per passenger: Jacobs Review of Airport Charges 2020; Proposed 2022 charge per passenger: Airlines UK analysis of current charges consultations at European airports

Today's charges per customer Source: Jacobs Review of Airport Charges 2020

Today’s charge per customer
*Source: Jacobs Review of Airport Charges 2020

2022 charges per customer Source: Airlines UK analysis of current charges consultations at European airports

2022 charge per customer
*Source: Airlines UK analysis of current charges consultations at European airports

Heathrow’s proposed increase would be the highest in Europe, putting its fees well above all other major airports and risking more traffic moving to European competitor hubs with the UK’s slump down the league table becoming permanent.

Commenting on the proposed increase in charges, Tim Alderslade, Airlines UK CEO, said:

 “It’s crazy that at a time when the travel industry needs holidaymakers to return to the skies, the UK’s biggest airport is hellbent on trying to price them out, penalising them for not travelling during the pandemic by adding an over-inflated premium to their tickets rather than turning to its shareholders or taking out loans, like the rest of the industry.

 “Aviation is vital to support the UK’s economic recovery, but this move will only drive business and jobs elsewhere in Europe. We know the CAA prides itself on protecting consumers and we urge it to do just that and reverse this dramatic rise in charges from a monopoly-abusing hub airport.”

 At a Transport Select Committee hearing on Wednesday, Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, warned that if the CAA allows Heathrow’s new charges to be taken forward; “It will just price the UK out of business completely”, and suggested that consumer interests “are not protected” under the airport’s proposals.