Virgin Atlantic hits out at Heathrow airport over fees

Virgin Atlantic has struck again at Heathrow Airport as the airport seeks to raise passenger charges. The airline has accused Heathrow of deliberately making “cynical forecasts” to justify the increased fee.

Virgin Atlantic blasts Heathrow projections

Last week Heathrow Airport revealed that despite a 16% increase in its passenger forecast for 2022, it expects a tough winter period and says it will remain unprofitable despite an improved outlook annuals.

Virgin Atlantic responded by accusing the airport of underplaying the aviation industry’s recovery in a cynical attempt to raise passenger fees.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said:

“With the removal of remaining travel restrictions in the UK, Heathrow is set to be Europe’s busiest airport this year. Despite the return of large-scale travel, Heathrow is casting doubt on the strength of demand so to be able to seek excess returns for shareholders and secure an unjustified increase in charges that would harm UK competitiveness and consumers.”

Virgin Atlantic disagrees with Heathrow’s pessimistic winter forecast. Photo: Getty Images

Heathrow’s revised forecast increased its annual passenger numbers from 45.5 million to 52.8 million, or 65% of its pre-pandemic capacity. However, after a resurgent summer, he expects a “winter freeze” with a drop in travel demand.

The airport said airlines were already canceling fall flights and cited other concerns including the Ukrainian conflict, rising fuel prices and the threat of new COVID variants.

The Virgin Atlantic spokesperson added:

“We urge the CAA to ignore Heathrow’s cynical forecasts and contradictory statements, choosing instead credible and independent evidence of demand return, in order to make a fee decision that puts consumers first.”

Fees up 56% in 2022

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted a temporary fee increase at Heathrow Airport in December, raising fees from £22 to £34.40 per passenger. In July, the CAA is expected to decide on a fee structure for the next five years.

Heathrow says this increase is not enough and wants the fee increased to £43. The airport pointed to recent travel chaos at UK airports due to underfunding.

Without increasing fees, Heathrow said,

“[We] will see passengers facing longer queues and more frequent delays, while threatening Heathrow’s ability to finance itself affordably.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss has previously called the 56% increase in fees “unjustified and blatant”.

Airlines UK, which represents carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, said:

“No other airport claims to need to increase passenger charges by 50-100% – in the midst of a cost of living crisis – to maintain a basic level of investment and service.”

More than 5 billion dollars in losses for Heathrow

Heathrow Airport has lost an estimated £4bn ($5.1bn) to the COVID-19 pandemic and says it will remain unprofitable this year, despite being on course to regain its position as the busiest airport in Europe.

Heathrow Airport expects it to reach around 65% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2022. Photo: Getty Images

Staff shortages have hit the airport hard in recent months as Heathrow has been forced to hire more than 1,000 new security staff. At Easter, the airport handled around 80% of its 2019 capacity with just 55% staff.

What do you think of the passenger charge situation at Heathrow Airport? Do you think the airport is justified in asking for additional fee increases? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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