Heathrow proposal is expected to make flights more affordable

British Airways Boeing 777
British Airways Boeing 777

Heathrow bosses today pledged to cut passenger charges by more than a third to help safeguard vital air links to regional UK airports.

Aberdeen International Airport (AIA) hailed the move as a step in the right direction for maintaining key services between Scotland and London.

It comes just a week after bosses at London’s busiest airport unveiled a package of new measures, including a review of charges, a £10million route development fund and a potential re-designation of public service obligation routes, which they said had the potential to deliver billions of pounds worth of trade and investment opportunities.

They also said there could be nine new air links and increased frequency on seven existing regional routes.

Yesterday, they proposed reducing domestic passenger charges by £10 to £19.59 from January 1, 2016 to make flights “more affordable” and support the commercial viability of regional routes facing pressure from airlines looking to grow their long-haul business.

Heathrow also aims to cut passenger charges for European flights by £5 to deliver fuller planes and make “more efficient use of constrained hub capacity”.

It plans to support its lower passenger fees by increasing airlines’ environmental costs from 21% to 28% of total airport charges, through a doubling of emissions penalties, which it hopes will encourage cleaner, quieter aircraft.

Heathrow said it had no control over air fares but highlighted a “reasonable expectation” that the savings proposed will be reflected in reduced fares.

Its latest proposals are part of a consultation but not conditional on the airport getting the go-ahead for expansion.

Options under consideration by the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission, which is looking at ways to increase capacity, involve new runways for either Heathrow or Gatwick, or a runway extension for Heathrow.

AIA commercial director Yvonne Birch said: “We welcome Heathrow’s further announcement today regarding the reduction in departing passenger charges to UK airports which goes a long way to acknowledge the national importance of regional connectivity for economic growth.

“This is certainly a step in a positive direction for maintaining key links between Scotland and London, and its onward connections, and we will continue to support and lobby for improved connectivity for our business and leisure passengers”.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We’re serious when we say Heathrow is committed to making sure that businesses across Britain can benefit from the connections to growth markets that only the UK’s hub can provide, whilst incentivising only the quietest and cleanest planes to operate from Heathrow.

“Our proposal to cut passenger charges by a third for domestic services will help us continue to drive the tourism, exports, inbound tourism and foreign direct investment that supports economic growth across the whole of the UK.”

A spokesman for London’s Gatwick Airport said: “Heathrow and Gatwick can both agree that competition is obviously a good thing as it means lower fares and better services for passengers.

“Gatwick has the best regional links of any London airport and still remains significantly cheaper than Heathrow. We will be setting out our own proposals on how to improve them further later this month.”