Aviation Business News

Low Cost & Regional February 2024

Low Cost & Regional February 2024

Landing fees at smaller airports have been in the news again recently. Ryanair’s outspoken boss has been clear in his opinion that such fees are outrageous and not in the consumer interest, while (as you’ll read elsewhere in the issue), the chief executive of one European regional airport has put the point across that the charges can encourage air traffic during sociable hours as well as the adoption of newer, quieter aircraft.

The debate around fees isn’t just limited to small regional airports trying to discourage cargo flights in the middle of the night. Last year Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, cut its landing fees after dogged lobbying from airlines. Their argument was that the airport was simply ‘price gouging’, while the airport said it had to recover losses incurred during the pandemic and that the airport needed investment.

Eventually, the matter was put in front of the regulator and Heathrow backed down, but this is an issue that is repeated in airports large and small around the world as operators grapple with the need to pay back past losses and develop the already expensive facilities to be fit for the future.

This will undoubtedly impact the cost of sending goods by air and it will affect the cost of an airline ticket. But will it affect passenger numbers? Somehow, I doubt it. Traffic has been strong over the past year and numbers continue to climb. You are probably fed up of hearing about how ‘demand has been stronger than expected’, but that too brings its own pressures on smaller airports that can only support so much aircraft movement and accommodate a set number of passengers in a day.

If we stay in London for a moment, Heathrow’s much smaller rival, Gatwick implemented a cap on flight numbers last year due to ‘challenging conditions’. This led to a number of cancellations and thousands of very angry passengers who were mostly booked on easyJet flights.

Clearly investment in airport infrastructure and staff needs to increase, and fees that in one way or another are passed on to the public will need to rise.

What the future holds, I can’t tell. The only thing I’ll say is that the days of ultra low-cost travel must surely be over.

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