Belfast Telegraph

BA slams 'greedy' Heathrow Airport aims to increase levy by extra £4 per passenger

by david elliott

Heathrow Airport's biggest customer has levelled damning criticism of management at the London hub which it accuses of needlessly ramping up the cost of flights through the airport.

The comments from British Airways, which flies a shuttle service from Belfast City Airport to the London airport, come as Heathrow awaits a decision from the aviation regulator on how much it can levy passenger charges for the next five years.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA's parent International Airlines Group, said that if the Civil Aviation Authority, due to give a decision on the issue in October, settles for its initial proposal then charges are set to increase by £600m over the 2014-19 period.

That would equate to an extra charge of £4 per passenger on top of the £19 already charged and, although less than Heathrow had asked for, it's still more than the airport needs to spend on infrastructure, insists Mr Walsh.

"What we see is an airport that isn't being run efficiently, that has too many people, and those people are paid too much and are utilised in an inefficient manner. Heathrow is ripping people off."

He pointed at Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews as bearing much of the blame, particularly after stating that the airport will cut spending by £10bn if it doesn't get a favourable outcome from the regulator.

"I think if Colin Mathews is incapable of running the airport and making the investments necessary then I think he should be replaced, and I think if he was a CEO in a listed entity and came out with a statement that he's come out with then shareholders would take a completely different view."

Attempting to give investors, most of which are sovereign wealth funds, a good return is at the crux of the matter, he said.

"Rather than ecome more efficient, it appears that Heathrow's priority is to further line its investors' pockets. The airport already pays its shareholders a handsome dividend and has grown through a recession."

A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport said: "We have put forward plans for more than £400m of cost savings over the next five years. Airlines' proposals for 40% price cuts can't be achieved without risking under-investment and a return to the outdated Heathrow of the past."

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