Heathrow Airport must “rise to the challenge” of keeping landing charges flat following expansion, according to Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority.
Following approval of plans for a third runway earlier this week, industry leaders have raised concerns over a potential increase in the cost of take-off and landing slots at the airport.
Any rise in costs would likely be passed on to passengers, according to aviation leaders.
However, speaking at the ABTA Travel Matters event in London this morning, Moriarty said the CAA was ready to fulfil its mandate in keeping costs down.
“It is worth saying what drives us, our primary duty in law, which is consumer interest,” he explained.
“We are very keen capacity expansion at Heathrow, therefore, is in their interest.
“However, it must be done in an efficient in and affordable way – and airlines have been very clear in what they think affordable means.
“They want to see landing charges flat in real terms.
“I have been very clear with Heathrow, that is a challenge they should rise to.
“I think Heathrow have accepted that challenge, though there are some arguments about the definitions, as one would expect.”
The government expects Heathrow to keep landing charges – which equate to roughly £22 per ticket – flat as it moves forward with the proposed £14 billion expansion scheme.
Moriarty pointed out engagement with airlines had already seen Heathrow identify £2.5 billion in potential savings on the cost of development.
“Ultimately, we set a cap on airport charges, so that is where our role comes in to protect consumers,” the CAA chief added.
“It is still early days, but I am very keen for Heathrow move fast to scrub their scheme costs.”
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has led the industry in voicing his concerns over the potential rise in landing costs as Heathrow expands.
Following the approval of the new runway, he said: “Parliament has approved Heathrow’s expansion without any idea on how much it will cost, and we have zero confidence in Heathrow’s management’s ability to deliver this project while keeping airport charges flat.
“It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing excuses for massive cost escalation on the exorbitant estimated cost of the project.
“These excuses will be followed by a change of leadership at Heathrow, who will then distance themselves from the promises and commitments that have been given.”