An “unprecedented” alliance of airline brands has been formed to force an overhaul of the way the UK’s biggest airports are regulated.
Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Ryanair and BMI have come together to condemn the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airport operator BAA after increased airport charges were announced. They are being facitly backed by British Airways – meaning that the five biggest carriers in the country are backing the campaign. Smaller airline Flybe has also lent its voice to the outcry.
The alliance is now set to hold talks with Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly before the end of the month to demand the break-up of BAA’s control over airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
The CAA this week allowed BAA to increase its fees to pay for better facilities and more stringent security measures. Charges will rise by 23.5% at Heathrow and 21% at Gatwick.
Airlines fear the money may be used to finance the debts of BAA’s parent company Ferrovial and say the CAA “caved in” to the operator’s demands.
The extra charges are likely to be passed on to customers, say the airlines.
A Virgin Atlantic spokes≠man says: “This is the first time you will have seen these airlines sitting together and it shows how strongly we feel.”
He says the airlines have set aside their differences because they wanted to raise awareness of the “iniquities of the system”, which he described as a “joke”. He called for a set-up similar to that in the US, where terminals compete against each other to attract airlines – adding that Virgin had switched terminals three times in eight years to take advantage of better deals.
BA threw its weight behind the demands, calling for a “root and branch” review of the current system.
BAA, which sold World Duty Free Europe shops to Autogrill for £546.6m this week, had lobbied for even bigger increases in charges and said the review did not recognise the scale of the work it had to carry out at its airports.