Heathrow to Penalise Airlines with Empty Seats

The European Union’s busiest airport hopes to win business from Paris and Frankfurt.

Heathrow is already the EU’s busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic and the second busiest in terms of traffic movements (after Paris’ CDG). But it aims to become even more efficient by effectively fining carriers that fly in and out using older aircraft and which operate aircraft with too many empty seats. It plans to raise the minimum departure fee that airlines pay, from £220 (€250) to £1,000 (€1150). Discounts will be given to airlines flying newer, quieter planes, while those flying high nitrogen-oxide emitting aircraft will pay a greater proportion of landing charges.

This means that carriers flying older aircraft such as the MD-80 will be paying proportionally more than those with planes such as Boeing’s lightweight 787 Dreamliner. Cunningly, fees for passengers in transit through the airport on different aircraft within 24 hours will be slashed by 25 percent, but a charge will be introduced for transit passengers who arrive and leave on the same plane. In this way, Heathrow hopes to win more routes to developing countries in Asia and South America from European rivals like Frankfurt and Paris.

All of these changes will be effective from April 2011. As reported, the UK government increased air passenger duty by up to 55 percent this week, provoking angry outbursts from airlines.

Financial Times