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Stansted fare rise ‘inevitable’

LOW COST carrier, Ryanair, has claimed that air fares from Stansted will rise under proposals to triple landing charges at the airport in 2008 which, it claims, have been drawn up by the British Airports. A spokesman for the airline said that higher fares are inevitable if these charges, which it claims will fund expansion plans at Stansted, are approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). But, he added that the airline would consider legal action first.

“It is true that fares would rise, but if the CAA was regulating things properly, it wouldn’t have to happen,” he said. “All the airlines at Stansted are against the proposals.”

However, the BAA has denied that such increases were part of the plans it submitted to the CAA regarding Stansted’s future. A BAA spokesman said: “One proposal we put forward was to stop offsetting our commercial profits (such as revenue from shops) against aviation fees, which has kept landing charges lower, but this would not lead to a tripling of fees.”

At present, landing fees at Stansted are about three pounds sterling per passenger, which BAA expects will rise to five pounds – the maximum level under the current five year agreement with the CAA, which will expire in 2008. Beyond that, no decision has been made.

Simon Evans, of the Air Transport Users Council (AUC), a watchdog for airline passengers, said the development of Stansted is far more important for travellers than any small rise in fares they may have to pay to fund it. “We believe it is in travellers’ interests for Stansted to be developed. Passengers would benefit from the growth in routes and increased competition that a new runway and terminal would bring, which would in turn drive prices down. If that costs a five pound rise in fares in the short term, so be it.”

Work at the Essex airport is scheduled to begin in 2012 and is expected to cost 2.7 billion pounds sterling. However, Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair suggested that it would cost less, if BAA did not control the UK’s major airports, and called on the government and the CAA to break up this “airport monopoly”.

“If Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow were competing against each other, a second runway and terminal would be built at Stansted for less than one billion pounds sterling and not the amount presently being proposed by the BAA. If the CAA fails to restrain the price-gouging instincts of the BAA airport monopoly, it should stand aside and let competition deliver where regulation has so clearly failed.”

easyJet is also wary of fare increases if landing fees at Stansted rise significantly in the coming years. A spokesman commented: “We don’t want to have to increase our fares and we are talking to BAA about ways we can avoid this. Like others, we feel very strongly that it should not be the airlines that bear the brunt of costs for a second runway at Stansted.”