Virgin Atlantic’s boss calls Heathrow’s proposed price cap ‘unacceptable’
The row between Heathrow and its airport customers has reached a new high after Shai Weiss, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, called out the UK aviation regulator over the airport’s interim price cap.
Weiss has accused the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of “putting the interests of a monopolistic airport and its shareholders ahead of passengers,” after the regulator proposed an interim price cap of £31.57 per passenger for 2023.
“By maintaining a pessimistic outlook for 2023 passenger forecasts, not only do customers face excessive charges but potentially also a poorer airport experience,” the chief executive said on Thursday.
Weiss’s comments were echoed by IAG’s chief executive Luis Gallego as well as former boss Willie Walsh.
Walsh – who has been director general of airline trade body IATA since late 2020 – called the regulator’s decision “frustrating and disappointing.”
A CAA spokesperson said the interim cap would allow the watchdog to make a final decision on the price cap “in an orderly way.”
However, Heathrow’s Spanish owners Ferrovial said the delay was “disappointing” and would hinder its ability to invest in the west London hub.
“The uncertainty caused by this delay is undermining our ability to commit capital to fund crucial investments to improve Heathrow’s experience for airlines and passengers. As a long-time investor in the UK, Ferrovial calls on the CAA to finalise its proposals as soon as possible”, Ferrovial said.
The price the west London hub can charge its airline customers is based on passenger numbers and has been at the centre of controversies for over a year.
The interim cap was initially set last December by the CAA at £30.19 to help the airport recover from the pandemic’s disastrous impact on travel levels and therefore its finances.
Over the last few months airlines have repeatedly accused Heathrow of downplaying its recovery to have a more favourable deal.
Despite regaining its status as Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow expects that only between 60 and 62 million passengers will pass through its gates this year.
A spokesperson said Heathrow was waiting for a final decision, while continuing to believe “in the strong plans we have put for investing in passenger services over the coming year.”