Virgin Atlantic boss tears into Heathrow for ‘abusing its power’ as CAA confirms airline charges

Heathrow
By Harry Kemble
08/03/2023
Home » Virgin Atlantic boss tears into Heathrow for ‘abusing its power’ as CAA confirms airline charges

The boss of Virgin Atlantic has accused Heathrow of ‘abusing its power’ and ‘peddling false narratives’ after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revealed new price cap charges.  

Chief Executive Shai Weiss said the aviation regulator had ‘not gone far enough to push back on a monopolistic Heathrow’, before blaming the London airport for using ‘flawed passenger forecasts’.

Heathrow has been told by the CAA to cut fees charged to airlines by 20% from 2024 until the new price cap ends two years later.

This year charges per passenger can remain at £31.57, but they will fall to £25.43 next year, meaning the average charge over five years will be £27.49.

Shai said: “After nearly two years of consultation and an abundance of evidence that supports a significantly lower price cap, the CAA has finally adjusted course.

“However, an average cap of £27.49 until 2026, adjusted for inflation, still penalises passengers at the world’s most expensive airport, which by its own admission, grew more than any other airport last year.”

He added: “The CAA has not gone far enough to push back on a monopolistic Heathrow and fulfil its statutory duty to protect consumers.

“Heathrow has abused its power throughout this process, peddling false narratives and flawed passenger forecasts in an attempt to win an economic argument.”

Shai slammed the formula used to set charges, calling it ‘fundamentally broken’. “We’ll review our position carefully,” he said.

“With Easter just weeks away and the start of a busy summer season, we are ready to fly and serve our customers and we expect Heathrow to deliver a quality experience for passengers.”

It’s not the first time Shai has argued against the CAA’s published price cap.

In December, he said the 2023 price cap was based on flawed projections which downplayed Heathrow’s likely recovery.

Heathrow today (8 March) pointed out the CAA had cut airport charges ‘to their lowest real terms level in a decade at a time when airlines are making massive profits and Heathrow remains loss-making’.

The airport added that the new price charges made ‘no sense’ and would do nothing for consumers ‘at a time when the CAA should be incentivising investment to rebuild service’.

“We will now take some time to carefully consider our next steps,” a spokesperson said.  

Richard Moriarty, CAA Chief Executive, said: “Our priority is to ensure the travelling public can expect great value for money from using Heathrow, in terms of having a consistently good quality of service, while paying no more than is needed for it.”

He insisted the CAA had ‘carefully considered’ the ‘sharply differing views’ from Heathrow and the airlines which used the airport.

“Understandably, their respective shareholder interests lead the airport to argue for higher charges and the airlines to argue for lower charges,” added Moriarty.

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