The boss of Ryanair has launched a withering attack on the cost of Heathrow’s third runway project.
Michael O’Leary joked that it takes “skill and inventiveness” to spend as much as £14 billion on expanding the west London hub.
He called for an end to airports’ “grandiose building schemes” and described the current regulation of airport charges as “ineffective”.
Airline bosses have expressed concern that Heathrow’s landing charges will be increased to pay for the building of a third runway.
The airport says it is “confident” it can meet the Department for Transport’s challenge of keeping fees close to current levels of around £22 per passenger.
Recent studies show charges at Europe’s largest airports have doubled in the past decade.
Speaking at a summit of trade association Airlines for Europe (A4E) in Brussels, Mr O’Leary said airports have been making profits of up to 8% per year despite zero inflation “for too long”.
He called for effective control on “rates of return”, stating that passengers do not want to pay for expensive expansion.
“As the airline model changes, we need less of the marble palaces,” he said.
“More and more people – particularly in short haul – are travelling with carry-on bags only.
“We don’t need some of the grandiose building schemes.”
He told the audience that the cost of building a third runway at Heathrow should be £120 million, adding: “The key thing here is we have to drive efficiency.”
A4E has been calling on the European Union to strengthen the economic regulation of major airports. It welcomed the European Commission’s decision to launch a review of airport charges.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, claimed the current system is “ridiculous” and incentivises airports to “waste exorbitant amounts of money”.
He called for tighter regulations to ensure airports “engage in meaningful consultation” with airlines before expansion plans are confirmed, and pledged that savings from lower fees would be passed on to passengers.