Airlines concerned over Gatwick improvements

There has been concern ahead of BAA’s £900 million investment project at Gatwick Airport, which has led the AOC (Airline Operators Committee) to issue a complaint to the company, claiming that there is a chance the huge bill will have to be passed onto their customers in the form of higher fares.

Ryanair, EasyJet and British Airways, all members of the AOC, have sent a letter to BAA expressing their concern that now is not the right time to go ahead with the large-scale changes, due to the fact that passenger numbers are continuing to fall. Gatwick has seen passenger numbers drop considerably this year, falling by 12% since the beginning of 2009.

The airlines are reluctant to pass on the bill to their customers during this difficult economic climate, and they have suggested that the programme be scaled back and put off until after the airport has been sold.

The airlines spoke of an “unproven” case for the millions that would need to be pumped into the airport for new facilities over the next five years. They have clearly expressed that they want to put off the changes until the new owner of the airport is decided, who they feel may have cheaper plans.

The proposed improvements to Gatwick include a new aircraft pier in the North Terminal, costing £200 million, and a number of other expensive upgrades. However, according to the AOC the costs cannot be justified.

BAA counteracted the criticisms by saying that the airlines were all involved in the negotiation process, and had been aware of the costs that it would incur for a long time already.

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