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Heathrow Charges Row Hits Turbulence

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has further complicated the ongoing row over who should bail out Heathrow Airport by saying it doesn’t know which option to choose. Heathrow has asked for a one-off £1.7 billion increase in charges from airlines that use the hub, but IAG – whose airlines include British Airways and Aer Lingus and account for over half of all flights using the airport – has expressed anger at the proposal.

The UK government has so far refused to bail out the airport, which puts the onus on the airlines and – ultimately – the fare-paying public to help out an airport that has suffered deep losses during the pandemic. The CAA said it was inclining toward rejecting the airport’s request but has delayed making a final decision until next month.

“Heathrow’s proposals are not in the best interests of consumers,” Paul Smith, director of the authority, said. “Although we propose to reject its disproportionate request, we are issuing a final consultation on whether a more limited and targeted intervention is warranted.”

IAG’s position is that Heathrow has paid £4 billion in dividends to its shareholders, which includes Qatar and China’s sovereign wealth fund. It said, “It’s not fair nor reasonable to ask consumers to bail out Heathrow. It’s a wealthy, privately owned company which should seek funds from its shareholders, as many other businesses in our industry have done to weather this pandemic.”

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