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Cost of family summer holidays could spike by £100 as Heathrow Airport eyes price hike, ex British Airways boss warns

FAMILY holidays could cost up to £100 more next year because of Heathrow airports “outrageous” price hikes.

Ex-British Airways boss Willie Walsh has warned that the UK’s busiest airport wants to increase the charges airlines pay by more than 90 per cent from January.

It would mean a spike from £19.36 to £37.63, and airlines already add the charges to ticket prices.

A family of five could pay almost £100 more for a flight from Heathrow if the Civil Aviation Authority regulator approves the changes.

Mr Walsh has accused Heathrow of acting like a “greedy monopoly” and said that their wealthy shareholders need to “step up” to provide investment after years of generous dividend payouts.

The Irishman, who now runs the International Air Transport Association trade body, has joined BA and Virgin Atlantic in lobbying the regulator to block the price hikes.

Mr Walsh said last night: “Heathrow must understand that gouging its customers is not the road to recovery for itself, the airlines, travel and tourism jobs, or travellers.

“I have sympathy for some airports, but looking for a 90 per cent increase, I just find that outrageous. There is simply no justification for that, and the only reason they are doing that is because they believe they can.

“Instead, it's time for Heathrow's shareholders to invest. The recovery of the UK's travel and tourism industry impacts millions of jobs.

"They cannot be held hostage to the intransigence of what is effectively a greedy monopoly hub airport.”

Heathrow is owed by seven billionaires, which include the sovereign funds of Qatar, Singapore and China.

They have paid out about £4billion in dividends since 2012 and have claimed they may restart playouts next year after pausing them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The charges are based on the numbers of people who are using the airport, and are expecting 40 million passengers next year – compared to 80 million before the pandemic.

Documents show that Heathrow could raise £1.6billion just from airport charges lone to offset debts from Covid of around £2.9million.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “We've proposed a balanced increase of 4 per cent to the average airfare, which will allow us to continue targeted investment in the airport's resilience and to maintain basic service standards.”

But Mr Walsh said: "I am critical of any airport who believes they have the right to significantly increase charges at this time to recover money they didn't get because of coronavirus. 

Doubling charges at Heathrow, which is already the world's most expensive hub airport, will thwart our industry's ability to support the recovery of UK businesses

Luis Gallego

"You can imagine if an airline tried to say 'you owe us money because you didn't fly with us in 2020' – they'd be laughed out of court.2

BA chief executive Sean Doyle and Virgin Atlantic executives are in talks with the CAA about Heathrow's proposals. 

They say passengers travelling from Heathrow pay the highest charges in the world and the planned 90 per cent increase outstrips proposed hikes of between 2 and 9 per cent at airports such as Paris and Frankfurt.

Luis Gallego, chief executive of BA owner IAG, said: “Doubling charges at Heathrow, which is already the world's most expensive hub airport, will thwart our industry's ability to support the recovery of UK businesses.”

Corneel Koster, chief operating officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “Heathrow is prioritising its shareholders at the expense of airlines and consumers.

“Just as UK airlines have raised significant funds from shareholders to weather the pandemic, it's only right that Heathrow turns to its owners first.”

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