British Airways will consider cutting Heathrow flights if proposed increases in charges are implemented, the boss of the airline’s parent company has claimed.
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said the west London airport’s fees are already among the highest in the world and are becoming “more and more expensive”.
In October, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced a plan to raise the cap on the airport’s average charge per passenger by up to 76%, from the current level of £19.60 (€23.35) to between £24.50 and £34.40.
Mr Gallego said Heathrow gives the UK’s aviation sector a “major advantage”, but warned that “we need to attract demand to stay competitive”.
He told the Airlines 2021 conference in Westminster: “The reality is that more than 40% of the people who use Heathrow are connecting passengers.
“They are simply passing through on their way to other destinations and could easily go by other, more competitive hubs.
“Hiking charges will not help. It will not attract demand – it will have the opposite effect.
“If the rise in landing charges goes ahead, I know IAG will not be alone in reconsidering our airlines’ use of Heathrow.”
Speaking at the same event, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, warned that the level of Heathrow’s fees threatens the viability of its expansion project.
He said: “Their inability to keep their charges under control will be the death of runway three.”
— Airlines UK (@airlines_UK) November 22, 2021
Under the CAA’s proposals, Heathrow’s exact charge will depend on factors such as passenger demand and commercial revenue, with prices higher if the airport continues to struggle in those areas.
The range is planned to come in effect from summer 2022, with an interim cap of £30 being introduced on January 1st.
Charges are paid by airlines but are generally passed on to passengers in air fares.
Heathrow had called for the cap to range from £32 to £43 for the five-year period being consulted on.
The airport said last month that its losses from the Covid-19 pandemic had hit £3.4 billion.
Passenger numbers in October were 56% down on pre-pandemic levels.