London airport passenger charges to rise: why?

There is dismay amongst airlines about proposals to increase passenger fees in order to pay higher dividends to its shareholders.

Several British newspapers have commented on the proposed increased charges for aircraft and passengers using Heathrow airport. The reason appears to be a desire to give the shareholders of Heathrow (now an independent financial company) a good return on their investments, so that they will continue to invest. The chief executive of Heathrow is quoted as saying that "no-one invests on a charitable basis - they're looking to make a market return".

From the passenger's point of view, what is directly important is the departure tax, currently £24.55 for European flights and £34.49 for other destinations. This is, in the opinion of many airlines, already excessively high: it has tripled in the past 11 years.

Who will be the shareholders who wil benefit from the higher return on their capital? Some ofhe main ones are quoted as being Ferrovial (Spain), China and Qatar sovereign wealth funds and a Canadian Government firm calles CPDQ. I could well imagine that many British passengers might not be enormously pleased to hear that part of their passenger taxes will, like themselves, be going abroad.

Thankfully, Geneva airport is not (yet) a completely independent commercial concern, although it does make nice profits, of which a percentage is payed to Geneva finances. We should hope, however, that the airport management does not get a fixation on increasing annual profits by squeezing on other (non-essential) items. Also, the Geneva government should make it clear that it has other concerns besides the tax income that it gets from the airport, such as the obligation that the airport give out comprehensive information on the nuisances inherent in air traffic and the requirement that airport neighbours not be constantly disturbed by late night noise.

Perhaps we should also pass on to Heathrow management the information  given on the radio by the Geneva airport spokesman Bernard Stämpfli that passengers going through Geneva airport are helping to keep airport passenger taxes down (currently 21.35 for a departure to Europe) by buying bottled water in the airport shops at a ridiculously inflated price!

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