Following the announcement by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority that the fees for flying in British airspace would be hiked in order to cover the costs incurred by beleaguered air traffic control system NATS, the boss of one of the UK’s regional airlines has spoken out.
“Who says things don’t evolve? We’ve progressed from highway robbery in the 18th century to airway robbery in 2024, based on today’s Civil Aviation Authority decision on the UK air traffic control charges NATS can levy,” Loganair CEO Jonathan Hinkles posted on LinkedIn earlier today (Thursday).
Pointing out that NATS charges increased by 29% this year as they sought to recover losses incurred in the pandemic, Hinkles said that the expectation was that charges for 2024 would go back to normalised levels, plus inflation. “Unfortunately, something’s gone badly wrong,” he noted. “Either the inflation index for Venezuela has been used by mistake, or NATS has pulled the wool over the regulator’s eyes”.
Hinkles makes the point that this is not only bad for airlines, their customers and the economy, but also for the environment.
“NATS charges are already the fourth highest in Western Europe. For a routine flight such as Glasgow to Faro or Tenerife, airlines will now take-off and turn right to leave expensive UK airspace as soon as they can, to reach cheaper Irish airspace”.
“Ireland’s ATC charges are less than a third of the UK’s, so even though an airline will burn more fuel flying this longer route – and generate more emissions – the saving driven to avoid these rapacious NATS charges is worth it”.
On the subject of his own business, Hinkles said: “We can’t readily nip through cheaper airspace on a flight from Inverness to Birmingham,” adding, “We feel the impact of the NATS charges far more on long domestic routes than on shorter routes. And in case you missed it, folk keep talking about banning short domestic routes to cut emissions from air travel. NATS seems hell bent on pricing the long ones out of the air too”.