Heathrow proposes to reduce domestic passenger charges by increasing environmental landing fees
(photo: Heathrow Airport)
Wed 8 Apr 2015 – With domestic connectivity having fallen as airlines increasingly use valuable slots for international flights, London’s Heathrow Airport is seeking to turn the tide by reducing its domestic passenger charges by a third, with the discount to be paid for by raising environmental landing charges. The hub airport is proposing to cut its passenger charge to airlines flying from Heathrow to domestic airports from £29.59 ($44) to £19.59 from the start of next year. With passenger charges capped by the government regulator, the reduction would be covered by increasing noise and emissions charges from 21 per cent to 28 per cent of the total paid by airlines to the airport. This will further encourage airlines to switch to cleaner and quieter airplanes, says the airport. Meanwhile, Heathrow has published its sixth Fly Quiet league table of airline noise performance that rates the top 50 carriers operating at the airport.
Domestic routes served at the capacity-constrained airport have fallen from 18 in 1990 to just seven today. A recent report by the National Connectivity Taskforce recommended that this trend should be reversed in order connect the UK’s regions to global markets. In order to encourage better utilisation of European slots and encourage fuller planes, Heathrow is also proposing a £5 reduction to £24.59 for Europe-bound passengers.
To cover the cost of the discounts, Heathrow is seeking to almost double NOx emission charges from £8.57 ($12.80) per kg to £16.51 per kg. Although 99% of Heathrow aircraft movements meet the quietest Chapter 4 and Chapter 14 international noise standards, those carriers operating noisier Chapter 3 aircraft will pay more. The airport operator says it is already engaging with those carriers “to better understand” when their noisier aircraft will be replaced.
“We’re serious when we say Heathrow is committed to making sure that businesses across Britain can benefit from the connections to growth markets that only the UK’s hub can provide, whilst incentivising only the quietest and cleanest planes to operate from Heathrow,” commented its CEO, John Holland-Kaye.
Although it cannot force airlines to reduce fares on domestic routes, Heathrow believes “there is a reasonable expectation” the savings will be passed on to passengers.
The airport says it has already held a number of informal engagement sessions with airlines and representative bodies over the proposals but is inviting email responses from interested parties by May 14.
The quarterly Heathrow Fly Quiet League is now in its second year and enabling the airport to better monitor progress in the noise performance of airlines serving the airport. The airlines are ranked according to six noise related criteria: noise efficiency, noise certification, arrival operations (continuous descent approaches), departure operations (noise preferential route adherence) and two night-time arrivals operations. Each metric is assigned a red, amber or green status based on the performance bands set for that indicator. As a result, operators towards the top of the league will have more green scores than those towards the bottom although because scores fluctuate within a band, it is possible for an airline with all green scores to be ranked lower than those with amber or red scores.
The latest quarter, covering October to December 2014, shows airlines are moving away from operating noisier aircraft at the airport and are increasing use of continuous descent approaches (CDAs), which require less engine thrust and keep the aircraft higher for longer, so helping to reduce noise.
Although British Airways’ short-haul operations continue to be ranked highest (see table below) Heathrow singles out Cathay Pacific for its performance over the past year due to its improved adherence to CDAs and its continued engagement with the airport’s technical teams. US Airways is also praised for its impressive jump of nine places in the league due to its use of quieter, more modern aircraft during a busier period of activity for the airline.
The airport’s 10-point plan to cut aircraft noise, called the Blueprint for Noise Reduction, and the Fly Quiet League has driven improvements, says the airport, which claims aircraft flying in and out are on average 15% quieter than those flying in the fleets of the same airlines at other world airports.
“Through hard work and open communications between us and airline partners, we have assured quieter skies for local residents over the past year,” said Heathrow Sustainability Director, Matt Gorman. “Undoubtedly, more work remains to be done, but we are encouraged by the improvements we have seen this year, and what is more, the innovation of airlines in finding ways to reduce noise and be better neighbours to residents.”