London’s Heathrow (LHR) faces opposition from some board members to its plan to raise 2.8 billion pounds ($3.8 billion) from airlines and customers by increasing airport prices, the Telegraph newspaper reported.
State-backed Qatar Airways, whose owner is also Heathrow’s second-biggest shareholder, said the plan is “unreasonable, not in the consumer interest and should be rejected,” according to the report. The airline’s top executive, Akbar Al Baker, is a representative for the state of Qatar on Heathrow’s board of directors.
Heathrow’s demands to change a complex regulatory framework so it could recoup losses caused by the pandemic have been rejected by the Civil Aviation Authority, the newspaper said. A spokesman for Heathrow said the regulatory adjustment is needed to lower prices for consumers, according to the Telegraph.
While all airlines and airports have taken a battering in the coronavirus crisis, Heathrow has been hit particularly hard since it relies on long-haul markets that have all but been wiped out. Passenger volumes have fallen to the lowest level since 1966 due to the ban on non-essential travel and quarantine rules. The airport posted a 2-billion-pound pretax loss for 2020.
Airports including Heathrow, as well as operators of air traffic control systems, have indicated they are seeking to recover lost revenue with “monopolistic behaviors,” according to Willie Walsh, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association and the former CEO of IAG SA.
IATA will lobby regulators to step in and prevent fee hikes that airlines can’t afford after a year in crisis, he said earlier this month.
Qatar Airways owns a 25% stake in IAG, whose British Airways is the largest operator at Heathrow.