Airlines have poured cold water on Gatwick’s proposal that it should be allowed to set its own passenger charges.
Gatwick has proposed that it should no longer have its passenger fees set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which regulates the fees airports can charge airlines.
The Sussex airport, which wants to spend £1 billion on improving its facilities between 2014 and 2019, said airlines and passengers would get a “better deal” than under the current regulatory system.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Free from regulation, we would be able to respond more quickly to the changing needs of airlines and their passengers and we would be able to step up the pace of improvement in the passenger experience. The deal means airlines and passengers win on price, service and the quality of facilities.
“A decision to allow competition, rather than regulation, to protect the interests of passengers would be, in my view, the most important step the CAA could take when it considers this plan.”
Gatwick said that under its proposals passenger fees would rise from £8.80 in 2014 to £10.68 in 2020/21, which it claimed would be lower than if the fees continued to be regulated by the CAA. Gatwick currently charges £8.28 per passenger.
But airlines such as Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic were quick to protest about Gatwick’s proposal warning that it would lead to higher ticket prices.
“Gatwick airport's so called "new deal" is simply smoke and mirrors and these proposals don't provide value for money for passengers,” said Easyjet in a statement.
“All the evidence shows that Gatwick is a monopoly airport and therefore should continue to be regulated. Without regulation passengers face the risk of higher charges.”
“Easyjet can see no justification for the price increases proposed by Gatwick which, rather than keeping costs low, represents an increase of around 60 per cent over five years.”
Virgin Atlantic added that Gatwick “continues to hold significant market power” and the CAA should carry on regulating the airport’s passenger fees.
“Around £1 billion has been invested in the airport experience at Gatwick in recent years,” said Virgin. “Instead of repeating that level of expenditure, the airport should be looking at making smart investment decisions to further improve passenger services in a cost-effective way.”
Airlines also protested about Heathrow’s proposed increases in its passenger fees from 2014-2019 which were unveiled earlier this week.
The CAA will make a final decision in January 2014 on the level of passenger fees that both airports can charge between 2014 and 2019.