Head of world airline group blasts Heathrow plan for higher fees


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LONDON - Willie Walsh, head of global airlines industry body IATA, lambasted Britain's Heathrow Airport, calling it a "greedy monopoly hub" and describing its plans to raise airport charges as "outrageous."

Since leaving British Airways parent company IAG last year to run the International Air Transport Association, Walsh has continued to bang the drum against passenger charges at Britain's busiest airport, Heathrow.

Addressing an audience at the Aviation Club in central London, he said Heathrow was trying to place the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis on its customers by proposing to raise airport charges by 90% to 42 pounds per person.

"This time 'round when you see what it is that Heathrow is trying to do, it just jumps off the page," Walsh said.

Heathrow, which last year lost its crown as Europe's busiest hub to Paris, is owned by investors including Spain's Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp.

Walsh, who has a reputation as a bruiser in dealing with unions and suppliers, said the higher charges would fund bigger dividends for Heathrow shareholders.

He called on Britain's regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to protect consumers by pushing back against the airport's "outrageous behaviour."

"The recovery of the UK's travel and tourism industry impacts millions of jobs. They cannot be held hostage to the intransigence of what is effectively a greedy monopoly hub airport," he said.

"I cannot see how almost doubling the charge at Heathrow is in the interest of consumers, particularly as we're trying to recover the industry."

Heathrow could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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