Virgin Atlantic boss blasts CAA over Heathrow price cap

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss has blasted the CAA’s published price cap for Heathrow airport, insisting the £31.57 cap is based on “undercooked and self-serving passenger forecasts”.

The authority published an interim cap consultation on Thursday, which raises the cap from £30.19 this year. The consultation will run for two weeks, to December 22.

Earlier this year, the CAA published a five-year plan to lower the average charge per passenger at Heathrow to £26.31 by 2026

Virgin Atlantic argued the 2023 cap, which sets limits on fees the airport can charge airlines, is based on flawed projections which downplay a likely recovery.

Weiss said: “It is unacceptable that the CAA has published a price cap for 2023 charges based on Heathrow’s undercooked and self-serving passenger forecasts, using airport projections that have proven to be completely flawed this year and are designed to achieve excess returns for its shareholders.

“The regulator, whose primary duty is to protect consumers, is putting the interests of a monopolistic airport and its shareholders ahead of passengers, who have only recently been able to return to the skies freely and face significant cost-of-living pressures.”

He added: “Strong and growing demand for travel means that the UK’s only hub airport, which is already Europe’s most expensive, is materially outperforming its own forecasts.

“By maintaining a pessimistic outlook for 2023 passenger forecasts, not only do customers face excessive charges but potentially also a poorer airport experience. We expect the CAA to use its powers to course correct, so that accurate and realistic forecasts inform both the 2023 cap and the final determination for the regulatory control period ending December 2026.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We will review the CAA’s proposed interim charge for 2023 and provide feedback as requested. We continue to believe in the strong plan we have put forward for investing in passenger services over the coming years. We await the regulator’s final decision on both this interim charge and the rest of the settlement period.”

A spokesperson for Heathrow owner Ferrovial, which holds a 25% stake in the airport, added: “Ferrovial is disappointed that the UK Civil Aviation Authority has yet again delayed its final proposals for the allowed charges at Heathrow Airport over the next five years.

“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.”

Speaking at the Airlines 2022 conference in London last month, Weiss said Virgin Atlantic had withdrawn “unequivocal support” for a third runway at Heathrow over its stance on charges.

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