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Airline fury at Heathrow fare increase plan

Airlines have expressed their anger at Heathrow’s proposed plan to double landing fees in an effort to recoup pandemic losses.

According to the Financial Times, Britain’s busiest airport wants to raise landing fees by a massive 90% – from £19.36 to £37.63 – over the next five years.

The airport has argued that this is the only way to mitigate the more than £2 billion in Covid-related losses it has suffered in 2020.

But Heathrow’s solution isn’t finding any favour with the airlines, who have reacted with fury.

“Heathrow’s plan will thwart our industry’s ability to support the recovery of UK businesses,” said Luis Gallego, chief executive of Aer Lingus and British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG).

“Increasing charges will penalise UK customers and trade at a time when Britain needs connectivity the most,” he added.

IATA boss Willie Walsh, who previously served as CEO of Aer Lingus, then British Airways and latterly IAG, said: “Placing the financial burden of a crisis of apocalyptic proportions on the backs of your customers, just because you can, is a commercial strategy only a monopoly supplier could dream up.

“Heathrow must understand that gouging its customers is not the road to recovery for itself, the airlines, travel and tourism jobs, or travellers,” he added.

IAG made its worst-ever annual loss in 2020, totally €7.4 billion.

Heathrow authorities have defended the proposal, saying that airlines can directly pass on extra costs to passengers and that the the increase will only add 4% to the overall cost of a passenger ticket.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the vast majority of airports right across the UK and the world are having to increase their prices — it’s not a uniquely Heathrow phenomenon, but a legitimate response to keep airports operating and supporting their national and local economies,” Heathrow said.

However, Heathrow may not have it all its own way. Earlier this year, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) blocked what it considered was a “disproportionate” attempt by the airport to raise its landing fees as it sought to recoup over £2.6 billion in pandemic-related losses.

The CAA capped the increase and said that it could claw back about a tenth of that figure.

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