Virgin Atlantic withdraws support for Heathrow’s third runway | Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has dropped support for Heathrow third runway The plans come amid an ongoing row over the cost of flying from Britain’s biggest airport.

The carrier was one of the most prominent proponents of airline expansion before the pandemic. But on Monday his executive director Shai Weissrailed against Heathrow’s proposal to increase landing fees by 120% and called on the aviation regulator, the CAA, to reform the “broken” system and “pay closer attention to the abuse of power by the de facto monopoly airport”.

He added: “Until that happens, it’s hard to see how Heathrow expansion can be supported.”

CAA said that Heathrow will be this summer allowed to raise fees by 56% to more than £30 per passenger next year, but will have to be cut by 2026 – a proposal Heathrow says “understates” the need for investment.

Weiss said Heathrow’s plan to raise fees was “great for the airport and its predominantly foreign shareholders” – including Qatar and China’s sovereign wealth fund – but “a bad deal for consumers, airlines and the UK economy”.

Speaking at the Airlines 2022 conference in central London on Monday, Weiss said that, along with other carriers, “we fought long and hard for the CAA to use their powers to prevent this from happening and called on the UK government to pay closer attention to this abuse of power by an actually monopolistic airport.”

The dispute escalated during a difficult summer when Heathrow predicted a drop in demand and then accused airlines of not having enough staff to handle all flights. introducing a limit of 100,000 passengers per day.

Weiss added: “It’s not just about the next price control period in four years. Everyone in this room is aware of the damage done to consumer confidence over the summer.

“A repeat of this in the summer of 2023 is entirely avoidable if honest and accurate passenger forecasts are used now to plan resources and improve resilience.”

Addressing the CAA and the UK government, he said: “The regulatory framework and the process is simply not working. It is broken and needs to be reformed.”

Asked about it afterward, Weiss told the Guardian he would still support airport expansion, including the controversial third runway, if conditions were met, including lower fees to “remain competitive consumer protections.” as well as a “massive overhaul” of Heathrow Terminal 3, where Virgin is based.

While the airline was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the airlines, Weiss said there was “no longer any unequivocal support.”

However, he ruled out a return to Gatwick, which Virgin abandoned during Covid, saying there was “no connection”. Weiss said the carrier has become more efficient after concentrating all its operations at one London airport.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, told the Guardian that he expected to continue a “constructive relationship and conversation” with Virgin, and that renovating Terminal 3 or moving to a new Terminal 2 was the airport’s medium-term vision. plans.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “To deliver the airport services that passengers expect, two things are essential: that our regulator gives us the opportunity to invest in the airport; and for all operators at the airport to work together building capacity. That’s our focus right now.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/nov/21/virgin-atlantic-heathrow-third-runway-shai-weiss-landing-charges Virgin Atlantic withdraws support for Heathrow’s third runway | Virgin Atlantic

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