High landing charges at an expanded Heathrow will make it impossible to deliver an increase in domestic air links, the head of British Airways parent company warned.
International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh said there is “zero chance” of BA operating any new domestic flights once the London hub adds a third runway.
BA would refuse to step in even if the head of Heathrow “begs me to do it” because of the expense of operating out of Heathrow.
He told the Airport Operators Association’s annual conference in London that Heathrow was “fat, dumb and happy” and that it attracted large numbers of airlines but that many failed to make a profit.
Walsh has claimed that plans for a third runway would price out most airlines. Heathrow has denied this, insisting that it will attempt to keep landing charges as flat as possible when a new runway is built as early as 2025.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said it was negotiating with easyJet about moving to the airport.
He said: “From 2025, when the new runway opens, we can add more domestic routes and more frequencies as well as competition on existing routes.
“We have been working with easyJet, Flybe and, more recently, Bmi Regional on their potential route networks.”
Heathrow has links to eight UK cities but it said at least six routes would be created, including to Liverpool, Humberside, Isle of Man, Jersey and Newquay.
Walsh told how BA had increased its share of slots from 36% to 53% over the past 15 years after buying space from other airlines that had been forced to abandon the expensive hub.
He said the current charge of £40 for a return trip would double to £80 per passenger with a new runway.
Heathrow has denied this, insisting that it will attempt to keep landing charges as flat as possible.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has said some of the additional routes created by an expanded airport would be ring-fenced for domestic flights.
But Walsh said he doubted that any airlines would be able to operate the routes and there was a “zero chance” of BA stepping in, The Times reported.
“We are not going to listen to any airport or any government telling us where to fly. None whatsoever. So we are not going to do it,” he said.
“If someone’s going to fly between Heathrow and Newquay, if it’s us, it will be done on a purely commercial basis. If John Holland-Kaye begs me to do it, I won’t do it. If he gives me £10 million a year, I’ll think about it.”
Bmi and Virgin’s Little Red had both attempted to operate domestic networks into Heathrow and it had been a “complete disaster”.
“It’s not going to happen unless there is a commercial reality behind it,” Walsh said. “We’re not interested in these artificial routes."
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