Airlines could be asked to pay seven times more to land at ‘Boris Island’ compared to present fees at Heathrow due to the substantial cost of building an airport in the Thames Estuary, according to an industry analysis.
Landing fees at a potential new airport, dubbed Boris Island because of the mayor of London’s backing for the plans, could be as high as £100 per passenger, senior figures in the airports sector told The Sunday Telegraph. Airlines currently pay approximately £15 per passenger to land at Heathrow.
Building an airport in the Thames Estuary could cost about £50bn, while some analysts have estimated the total bill for Boris Island at £70bn, significantly higher than the £12bn regulated asset value of the UK’s current biggest airport.
Airports are said to be becoming frustrated with the government’s progress on outlining its future policy on aviation. It was meant to announce the results of its latest analysis in March, but this is now expected to be just another rehearsal of the options available.
It could be next year before any proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary are analysed should another round of consultation on the plans be announced in March.
But any new airport could struggle to take off if landing fees are as high as estimated, with carriers choosing to remain at continental alternatives, such as Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, Madrid’s Barajas and Amsterdam’s Schiphol.
Airlines may also be reluctant to switch their London bases from Heathrow to any new hub, unless the west London airport is shut down by the government.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner International Airlines Group, indicated the flag-carrier had little appetite to move out of Heathrow unless it was closed.
Other major carriers are unlikely to want to move if British Airways remains at Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said the airline’s staff “remain to be convinced by the Thames Estuary scenario”, although the group has “an open mind about all the options to solve the South East capacity problem”.
Any move to close Heathrow could result in an exodus of businesses from west London and surrounding areas. Mars is located in Slough, while GlaxoSmithKline is based in Brentford and Microsoft’s headquarters is in Reading.