IATA chief blasts Heathrow plan for higher fees

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Heathrow, which last year lost its crown as Europe’s busiest hub to Paris, is owned by investors including Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp…media reported.

Willie Walsh, head of Air carriers’ association IATA, lambasted Britain’s Heathrow Airport, calling it a “greedy monopoly hub” and describing its plans to raise airport charges as “outrageous.” Since leaving British Airways parent company IAG last year to run the International Air Transport Association, Walsh has continued to bang the drum against passenger charges at Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow.

Addressing an audience at the Aviation Club in central London, he said Heathrow was trying to place the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis on its customers by proposing to raise airport charges by 90% to 42 pounds per person.

“This time ’round when you see what it is that Heathrow is trying to do, it just jumps off the page,” Walsh said.

Heathrow, which last year lost its crown as Europe’s busiest hub to Paris, is owned by investors including Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp. The stealth tax, which must be passed by airlines to Heathrow, is an attempt to recover from the airport’s financial loss last year when a decrease in travel and passenger numbers left the airport with losses of 2 billion pounds last year due to the pandemic, according to the Evening Standard report.

Walsh, who has a reputation as a bruiser in dealing with unions and suppliers, said the higher charges would fund bigger dividends for Heathrow shareholders.

He called on Britain’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to protect consumers by pushing back against the airport’s “outrageous behaviour.” “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,” he said.

“I cannot see how almost doubling the charge at Heathrow is in the interest of consumers, particularly as we’re trying to recover the industry.” Heathrow could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services. The price is calculated purely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure that supports them,” an airport spokesperson told the newspaper.

Heathrow reported an annual loss of 2 billion pounds in 2020 as the pandemic closed borders and the government restricted most international travel. The number of passengers who passed through slumped to 22.1 million last year — more than half of whom travelled in January and February 2020 — a fall of 73 per cent compared with a year earlier and the smallest annual total since 1975, the Guardian newspaper reported.

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