Lowering Heathrow’s airport charges will impact passenger services, according to the airport’s chairman Lord Paul Deighton.
A former commercial secretary to the Treasury and chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Deighton said higher airport chargers are needed if Heathrow wants to remain Britain’s hub airport and deliver an excellent service to travellers.
“Just because airlines argue for a cheaper plan, that doesn’t mean it delivers anything but trouble for passengers,” he wrote today on Tory blog ConservativeHome. “Underinvestment means queues, delays and a reputation for hassle.”
Deighton’s remarks come a couple of weeks after the ongoing feud between Heathrow and airlines over passenger fees reached a new low.
Following a disastrous two years plagued by pandemic-induced losses, Heathrow lobbied in October with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to increase the amount it can charge its airline customers from £19 to as high as £43 per passenger.
To mediate between the airport and airlines, the CAA set an interim cap at £30.19 while it waited this summer to decide the price cap for the next five years.
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ owner IAG accused the London hub of “abusing its monopoly to fleece passengers,” saying that the fare increase would only benefit Heathrow’s shareholders.
According to Deighton, Heathrow’s push for a hike in fees would only improve the quality of the service, boosting the UK’s regional connectivity and passenger experience.
“Heathrow shareholder returns have been negative in real terms since 2006 and most years we have not been able to pay any dividends,” he added. “But it has delivered clear benefits for passengers.”
The chairman argued that increasing airport fees in the past kickstarted a £12bn investment programme which turned around the negative reputation Heathrow had in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“Now, over 80 per cent of flights depart within 15 minutes of schedule and over 80% of passengers have a “very good” or “excellent” experience,” he explained. “Passengers now rank Heathrow as one of the top 10 airports globally.”
Over the next five years, Deighton said, Heathrow will invest £4bn in passenger upgrade, including a new baggage system for Terminal 2 and streamlined security.
“We encourage our airlines to focus their efforts with us on working together to get people away on their journeys as smoothly as possible,” he concluded. “That is what is in the best interests of passengers.”