Virgin Atlantic abandons plans to back Heathrow third runway.

Virgin Atlantic has withdrawn its support for a third runway at Heathrow amid disputes over the cost of flying from Britain’s biggest airport.

The airline was one of the most visible supporters of airline expansion before the pandemic. But on Monday, its chief executive Shai Weiss hit out at Heathrow’s proposal to increase landing fees by 120 percent, calling on the aviation regulator CAA to reform the “broken” system and “pay more attention to the abuse of power at the de facto monopoly airport.”

He added: “Until that happens, it is hard to see how Heathrow expansion can be supported.” Passengers line up at the departure terminal of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport on June 27, 2022.

Heathrow Airport is ready for the Christmas rush, with contingency plans in place to avoid disruption.

The CAA announced this summer that Heathrow will allow charges to rise by 56.9% next year to more than £30 per passenger but is expected to cut them by 2026. Heathrow says it “underestimated” the need for investment.

Heathrow’s fee-collection plan, according to Weiss, is “good for the airport and its largest shareholders,” including Qatar and China’s sovereign wealth fund, but “a bad deal for consumers, airlines, and the UK economy.”

Speaking at the Airline Conference 2022 in central London on Monday, Weiss said we have fought long and hard with other airlines for the CAA to use its powers to ensure this does not happen and urged the UK government to “pay more attention to the abuse of the power of the de facto monopoly airport.” The cross accelerated during a difficult summer when Heathrow predicted a drop in demand and then accused airlines of not having enough staff to accommodate all flights, which imposes a daily limit of 100,000 passengers.

Weiss added: “This is not just the next price control period in four years.” Everyone in this room understands the damage that summer disruptions can do to consumer confidence.

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

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

When asked later, Weiss told the Guardian that he still supports airport expansion, including the controversial third runway, if conditions are met, including lower charges to “protect competitive consumers” and a “massive redevelopment” of Heathrow. Terminal 3, where Virgin is located.

Although the airline was one of the biggest airline cheerleaders on the runway, Weiss said, “there was no longer unequivocal support.”
He ruled out a return to Gatwick, where Virgin operated during COVID, but said there was no connection. Weiss claims that the airline has become more efficient by consolidating all of its operations into a single London airport. 

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye told the Guardian that he hoped to continue a “constructive relationship and discussions” with Virgin and that a refurbishment of Terminal 3 or a move to a new Terminal 2 was in the airport’s medium-term plans. periodic plans. 
A Heathrow spokesman said: “Providing the airport service that passengers expect requires two things: our regulator allowing us to invest in the airport; and all airport operators working together to increase capacity.” “Those are our priorities now.”

Source: Guardian

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