Concern for airline passengers

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Heathrow Terminal 3

The boss of British Airways and Iberia, Willie Walsh, yesterday hit out at Heathrow saying that it was ripping off passengers by use of excessive charges. Is there truth behind this or is it just two businesses playing politics to get the best deals for themselves?

From the airline’s point-of-view, airport charges are costs it cannot control. It can raise or lower the cost of our tickets, it can hedge its fuel bill and it can control its own staffing and administration costs. But what an airport charges it to get a passenger through its terminals is completely out of its hands. By shouting and screaming now before the regulator sets the costs, it hopes to influence what the eventual cost will be.

At present, if I fly to Alicante at the end of next month on BA from Heathrow, I will pay £28.30 for passenger service charges which I take to largely be airport connected costs. If I fly from Gatwick on the same day, the costs are only £12.27 so Heathrow is more than double.

Walsh’s view is that passengers could end up paying £27 more if Heathrow has its way. So why doesn’t Walsh – if he is concerned – take a leaf out of Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary’s book and threaten to pull out his flights from Heathrow and move them elsewhere?

The answer is probably because Walsh has painted himself into a corner by always insisting on the importance of Heathrow and that expansion must take place there. Moving flights to Gatwick – and there is some capacity – would save money that he would pass on to passengers but so what? He passes the Heathrow costs on to us anyway. BA and all the other airlines wouldn’t lose; we – the passengers – would.

So what we have is grandstanding, nothing more and nothing else. And probably no great concern for passengers either as long as we continue to fly and choose BA or Iberia.

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