This week has seen Easyjet start a legal battle in the High Court against the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator of UK airports, over charges levied on the low-cost carrier to use Gatwick airport. Earlier this month the chief executive of Easyjet, Andy Harrison, decried the “barmy” system of airport charges in Britain.
The CAA has allowed BAA (the airport operator) to increase charges at Gatwick by 50% over the five years from April 2008 to April 2013, a move which will cost Easyjet £46 million. The airline has 37 aircraft at Gatwick and transports 9 million passengers a year.
Mr Harrison claims that the regulator held private talks with the operator after the deadline had passed for consultation. A spokesman for the CAA vowed to defend the decision vigorously, arguing that there had been proper consultation, something which Mr Harrison dismissed as “baloney”.
The charges being levied are to be invested in a £875 million plan for improvements to Gatwick. Mr Harrison is angry that airlines have to pay in advance and that there is no sign of any of the work being carried out at Gatwick. The situation has been further exacerbated by the likelihood of a new owner taking over at Gatwick and there is of course no guarantee that the new owner will carry out the work planned. Mr Harrison has called for a root and branch overhaul of the way airports are regulated.
The court hearing is expected to last all week and a decision should be made within two months.