Heathrow airport fights congestion by upping prices 400%

By Michael Flux, November 3 2010
Heathrow airport fights congestion by upping prices 400%

Those heading to Heathrow airport could soon be paying more for tickets. The airport's operator, BAA, will be shifting the way it charges airlines using the venue. It’s going to boost minimum departure fees on planes from £220 ($350) to £1000 ($1600), though discounts may negate the effects on pricing for international flyers.

Although the increased departure charge will cost airlines, the nature of Heathrow’s restructuring will mean large aircraft will have discounts on fees. Smaller, less environmentally friendly planes will in-turn be given higher penalties.

The more carbon-intensive aircraft are usually reserved for regional flights, while the larger fly international long-haul routes.

A fee will also be applied to passengers arriving and departing on the same plane. Passengers leaving on different aircraft within 24 hours will receive a discount.

With a higher departure tax in effect, airlines will be less willing to fly with empty seats. This is a deliberate design of the new structure of charges, and BAA hopes this will reduce aircraft congestion at the airport by packing more passengers into less planse. Unfortunately, it could also mean fewer flights are available to travellers where airlines are doubtful they'll be able to fill all seats. It will be especially difficult to find flights to regional airports in planes that aren't completely full.

The changes to fees are designed to reduce carbon emissions and noise pollution in the area. A reduced number of flights at Heathrow may mean passenger traffic is pushed to London's other four airports.

What effect the reshaping will have on airline fares is not yet fully clear. Although Heathrow airport is set to make the changes, how these prices are transferred to ticket prices will be ultimately up to the airlines.

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