LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Willie Walsh, head of global airlines industry body IATA, called Britain's Heathrow Airport a "greedy monopoly hub" on Wednesday and said its plans to raise airport charges were "outrageous".
Since leaving British Airways parent company IAG (ICAG.L) last year to run the International Air Transport Association, Walsh has continued to bang the drum against passenger charges at Britain's busiest airport. read more
Addressing an audience at the Aviation Club in central London, he said Heathrow was trying to place the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis on its customers by proposing to raise airport charges by 90% to 42 pounds ($57) per person.
"This time around, when you see what it is that Heathrow is trying to do, it just jumps off the page," Walsh said.
Heathrow, which last year lost its crown as Europe's busiest hub to Paris, is owned by investors including Spain's Ferrovial (FER.MC), the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp.
It said airports across Britain and the world were having to increase their prices after the pandemic, and it was a legitimate response to ensure they could keep operating.
"We've proposed a balanced increase of 4% to the average airfare which will allow us to continue targeted investment in the airport's resilience and to maintain basic service standards," Heathrow said in a statement.
Walsh, who has a reputation as a bruiser in dealing with unions and suppliers, said the higher charges would fund bigger dividends for Heathrow shareholders.
He called on Britain's regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to protect consumers by pushing back against the airport's "outrageous behaviour".
"The recovery of the UK's travel and tourism industry impacts millions of jobs. They cannot be held hostage to the intransigence of what is effectively a greedy monopoly hub airport," he said.
"I cannot see how almost doubling the charge at Heathrow is in the interest of consumers, particularly as we're trying to recover the industry." ($1 = 0.7335 pounds)
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