Leading airline bosses demanded the EC toughen regulations on airports to stem rising airport charges.

International airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh said: “We are calling on the EU to strengthen regulation in the interest of consumers – If airport charges were lower, the benefits would be passed on.”

Walsh suggested charges at Europe’s biggest airports had grown by 80% in the past 10 years “while passenger charges decreased 20%”.

Speaking at an Airlines for Europe (A4E) summit in Brussels on Tuesday, he said: “We want the EC to focus on airport cost efficiency and genuine transparency. We want airlines to have meaningful consultations with airports [on airport development programmes].

“We want specific regulations for airports with the biggest market power.”

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary agreed, saying: “We want [the EC] to replace ineffective airport regulation with effective regulation.

“Too many airports tell us they are spending €2 billion on some marble palace, or in the case of Heathrow £14 billion.

“It takes some inventiveness to blow that amount on a runway that costs £120 million. We don’t need some grandiose palace. We want reform to end the egregious gold plating of airport developments.”

Walsh suggested: “There is a 50/50 chance of a third runway being built at Heathrow. But the price Heathrow is talking about is ridiculous.

“They first said £16 billion, now they are talking about £14 billion. If they thought they could get away with it, they would say £24 billion.

“We are their biggest customer and Heathrow treats us appallingly. Their costs are out of control. We have already knocked £2 billion off the price. I’m going to attack them every day.”

Walsh asked: “Who goes to an airport to look at a waterfall? You go to board a plane. I don’t want marble palaces.”

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