Sept. 25--British Airways boss Willie Walsh has opened a new front in the battle with Heathrow over costs, accusing the airport operator of 'ripping-off' passengers and calling on its chief executive to be sacked.
Walsh, who as head of International Airline Group is Heathrow's largest customer, said its boss, Colin Mathews, should be replaced because his poor management will cause passengers to foot the bill for pounds sterling 140m in new charges.
Walsh said aviation regulator the CAA, which is due to publish its final proposals for airport charges next week, had been 'hoodwinked' into allowing Heathrow to reward its foreign investors with higher-than-average returns at the expense of passengers.
Walsh called previous comments made by Matthews 'pathetic', and added: 'I think if Colin Matthews is incapable of running the airport and making the investment necessary, then I think he should be replaced.'
In the CAA's final proposals it is likely to rule the charges airports are allowed to charge their airline customers over the next five years, starting from 2014, will be set at the retail price index (RPI) minus 1.3pc.
This works out at an increase of pounds sterling 600m over the five year period (or pounds sterling 140m annually) which BA says makes it the most expensive hub airport in the world. This translates to around an pounds sterling 7 extra per passenger per trip.
At a press conference in Chengdu, China, Walsh said: 'Management at Heathrow is definitely part of the problem because I think their incentive comes from ensuring they get the right regulatory outcome rather than being incentivised to run the airport properly.
'I think Heathrow is ripping off passengers and I think if the CAA does not take a stronger line on this Heathrow will continue to be inefficient and over rewarded.
'There are too many people [at Heathrow], those people are paid too much and are inefficient.
'In an environment where everybody has been tightening their belt, for an airport to continue to increase their charges by well in excess of inflation will come as a great surprise to passengers.'
A Heathrow spokesman said: 'We have put forward plans for more than pounds sterling 400m of cost savings over the next five years. We want to continue the investment that has been improving Heathrow for passengers.'
Copyright 2013 - Daily Mail, London
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