UK airlines have joined forces to call for the break up of airport operator BAA and overhaul of UK regulator the Civil Aviation Authority.
The heads of EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and BMI expressed fury at the rise in landing charges the CAA announced at Heathrow and Gatwick this morning, while Ryanair slammed rising costs at Stansted.
The increases will add £2.44 to fares from Heathrow next month and £1.18 from Gatwick, with an increase of 7.5% above inflation allowed at Heathrow each year up to 2013 and 2% above inflation at Gatwick.
At a joint press conference the four carriers called on transport secretary Ruth Kelly to intervene to halt the price increases.
EasyJet chief executive Andy Harrison said: “London’s airports are a mess. UK passengers are being asked to pay BAA-owner Ferrovial’s debt. We call on Ruth Kelly to sort this out and impose a moratorium on the price increases.”
Harrison suggested BAA could suffer the same fate as Northern Rock. “For all we know, BAA could become a Southern Rock. BAA’s failing finances should be made public,” he said.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “The regulator has failed. Now we need a new regulatory framework.”
Ryanair deputy chief executive Michael Cawley said the fare increases would hit airline expansion. “Growth in air travel is driven by price,” he said.
The four called not just for the break up of BAA, which operates seven UK airports, but for a break-up within airports – with terminals sold off to different operators.
British Airways also denounced the price rises, calling them “excessive”, and demanding a review of airport regulation.
The CAA acknowledged the increases were “significant”, but said: “The higher charges are paying for the modernisation of Heathrow and Gatwick.” It blamed an increase in the charges from those proposed in November on a rise in security costs.
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