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Passengers face higher fares after the Civil Aviation Authority rejected pleas from airlines for landing charges to be cut over the next five years.
Instead Heathrow will be allowed to push up the landing levy in line with inflation and Gatwick by half a per cent above RPI, triggering a furious response from airlines.
Carolyn McCall, easyJet''s chief executive warned the CAA ruling could add as much as £28 to a flight out of Gatwick, while its operators were given a "licence to print money". Other industry sources suggested the decision would add around £20 to the cost of a transatlantic flight.
The ruling follows months of lobbying by both airports and the airlines that use them over the amount that should be paid in landing charges between 2014 and 2019.
Earlier this year the CAA proposed capping the price increase at Heathrow at 1.3 per cent below inflation and at Gatwick at one per cent above RPI.
Heathrow, which is now owned by an array of investment groups across the world including from Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Canada, the United States and China, reacted by threatening to cut back on investment plans.
However its partial victory, allowing landing charges to keep pace with the Retail Price Index – currently 3.3 per cent – failed to satisfy Colin Matthews, Heathrow''s chief executive.
"The CAA''s settlement could have serious and far-reaching consequences for passengers and airlines at Heathrow,'''' he said.
"We want to continue to improve Heathrow for passengers. Instead, the CAA''s proposals risk not only Heathrow''s competitive position but the attractiveness of the UK as a centre for international investment."
Gatwick, however, gave a cautious welcome to the deal it has been offered.
The aviation industry made clear that the charges would be passed on to passengers who also face continuing increases in Air Passenger Duty.
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives UK, said: “Airline CEO’s will be reaching for their oxygen masks in the knowledge that they will be forced to pass on excessive airport charges to their customers for the next five years.
“Consumers have benefited from intense competition between airlines, driven by major efficiency gains and razor thin margins."
Simon Buck, Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association (BATA), added: "Airlines are deeply frustrated and disappointed with the final proposals for consultation on airport charges published by the CAA today.
“BATA supports improving the passenger experience and we believe this can be done without a repeat of the incredibly steep price rises we have seen in airport charges in the last few years.
"Prices at Heathrow are triple the level they were ten years ago and we believe there should be a real terms reduction in charges applied to each passenger at this airport for the next five year period instead of a further hike as proposed today."
A spokesman for the CAA said no decision had yet been reached on Stansted because of the airport''s recent change of ownership.
Dame Deirdre Hutton, the CAA''s chair, added that the proposals, which include airports facing the threat of substantial fines if they fail to cope with bad weather, were in the best interest of passengers.
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