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London’s Heathrow Airport Records Substantial Recovery Amid Controversial Landing Fees

British Airways Airbus A321neo at London Heathrow. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

After one year of lifting the travel restrictions in the U.K., London’s Heathrow Airport has recorded 6.4 million passengers travel through the airport for April.

Earlier, the country’s busiest airport has welcomed 16.9 million passengers in the first quarter of 2023, becoming the Europe’s busiest airport and second in the world for international travel. The airport has seen a 93-95% levels of 2019 levels across the first four months of this year.

“It is only 12 months since all international travel restrictions in the U.K. were lifted, and we have made tremendous progress.” John Holland-Kaye, CEO of the airport said.

Holland-Kaye will leave Heathrow later this year after nine years at helm.

Logan Air, the regional airline has launched its service at Heathrow. Heathrow has stepped into London’s City Airport and London’s Stansted Airport’s shoes to operate the services to Dundee and Derry.

According to the airline, this was a game-changer for regional connectivity. The routes are operating under the government’s Public Service Obligation scheme.

Meanwhile, Heathrow will enhance its services to China by adding frequencies to Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai to twice daily before the summer.

Airport Landing Fees

Despite the airport has seen a remarkable recovery, the airport reported a loss of 139 million Pounds ($173.63 million) in the  first quarter of 2023.

Heathrow is accused of keeping its prices too high. According to the local media, the airport expects to increase the landing fees to GBP 40 per passenger from GBP 31.57 in coming years, in response to a loss of 684 million pounds in the last financial year.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has ruled the airport could only charge GBP 25.43 per passenger during 2024-26. CAA said the new fee is the right level for consumers while allowing the airport to make an investment for the future.

Heathrow was left disappointed and insisted the higher fees could provide a better service to passengers, but the airlines said that it pays through the nose for the services.

“The CAA decision contained multiple errors of fact and judgment, including pessimistic passenger forecasts that ignore the strength of recovering demand,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said.

IATA said the rule is “generous” to Heathrow with suggesting the current system for deciding fees needs a review.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the competition watchdog has granted the permission to Heathrow, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines to appeal against CAA’s decision on the Heathrow landing fee.

Heathrow has been in dispute with the British carriers over the landing fees for years.

British Airways said Heathrow is three times more expensive than its EU airports. Virgin Atlantic said the foreign shareholders stand to benefit from the high landing fee, not the country. As a result of the landing fee dispute, Virgin Atlantic has withdrawn the support of Heathrow third runway last year.


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