The Heathrow expansion will be “difficult” to support unless regulation of the airport is overhauled, the boss of Virgin Atlantic has warned.

Chief executive Shai Weiss said the west London airport must be “priced fairly and open to competition”.

Heathrow is continuing to develop its plan to build a third runway, which was delayed by legal challenges and the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss
Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss said, ‘the regulatory framework and process is simply not working’ (Steve Parsons/PA)

In a speech at the Airlines 2022 conference in Westminster, Mr Weiss criticised the airport’s attempt to raise charges and its decision to limit capacity.

He told the audience that Heathrow’s request to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for permission to introduce a “120% price hike in per passenger charges” would have been “a bad deal for consumers, airlines and the UK economy”.

Mr Weiss said airlines “fought long and hard” to ensure the CAA does not allow that to happen and urged the Government to “pay closer attention to the abuse of power by a de facto monopolistic airport”.

In June, the CAA said its “final proposals” involve the cap on Heathrow’s average charge per passenger falling from £30.19 to £26.31 in 2026.

Mr Weiss also hit out at Heathrow imposing a cap on daily departing passengers in early July due to staff shortages, which caused flights to be cancelled.

He said the CAA must not allow Heathrow to “sleepwalk into another entirely avoidable period of disruption”.

He went on: “The regulatory framework and process is simply not working. It is broken and must be reformed.

“It must better balance the interests of airport shareholders with those of passengers and consumers.

“It must incentivise Heathrow’s owners to deliver an airport that is priced fairly and open to competition, focused on delivering a quality experience for airlines and their passengers, rather than excessive dividends for shareholders.

“Until that is achieved, it is difficult to see how expansion at Heathrow can be supported.”

A Heathrow spokesman said: “To deliver the airport service passengers expect, two things are needed: for our regulator to give us the ability to invest in the airport; and for all the operators at the airport to work together building back capacity.

“These are our focus right now. Our efforts are firmly directed towards the constructive engagement and collaboration with the regulator and with the airlines to deliver great service for passengers this Christmas and into next year.”

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