It's no secret: Flying to London from the U.S. is expensive compared to other European cities. Dublin is about the same distance from the East Coast but often has fares that are 30-40 percent less than airfare into Gatwick or Heathrow airports. But why is London so pricey to fly into? High landing fees (a fee that an airport imposes upon airlines that wish to fly through there), air passenger duties, and other often unseen taxes make the city an expensive destination when it comes to flights. And there's little good news for the years to come for passengers as the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (they regulate landing fees increases, passenger airport experience, and more at Gatwick and Heathrow) recently released its proposal for landing fee increases from 2014–2019. What do these fees ultimately mean for you? We're here to break it down for you:
What are landing fees: Airports appeal to the CAA to change landing fees to fund future additions and improvements to terminals, bettering customer service, reducing wait times, and more. When the CAA decides on a final fee, the airports then imposes those fees on the airlines. More often than not, the airlines pass on part (if not all) of the fees to passengers on a per ticket basis. Each airline decides individually how much of the fees fall onto the passengers. (In June of 2012, budget carrier Ryanair passed along new, higher landing fees in Madrid and Barcelona to its passengers, even the ones that had already booked flights to those cities. In the past, some airlines have only passed on a portion of landing fees to passengers.)
Here are the fee caps right now per passenger:
- Heathrow: £21.87 ($35.11) – The actual landing fee right now is £20.71 ($33.27)
- Gatwick: £8.80 ($14.13)
Depending on the CAA's decision, rates could rise by 2019 to:
- Heathrow: £25.35 ($40.73)
- Gatwick: £10.27 ($16.50)
Put into perspective, I found landing fees in the U.S. at a few airports at around $4 or $5. Ultimately, airlines apply landing fees to the base ticket fare so you won't even see it in a breakdown of taxes and fees.
Why they're going up and when you'll be affected: The CAA reevaluates airport landing fees every five years – they last reviewed them in 2008. They take into account a number of factors from future passenger numbers, expected money from investors, and more. They'll make their final decision in January 2014 and London-bound customers should brace for possible ticket increases. British Airways told us that if you buy a ticket before the increase in 2014, they'll honor that price rather than tacking on the fee, so you'd benefit to buy sooner rather than later for 2014 travel. And while these increased landing fees are only for Gatwick and Heathrow, London's smaller Stansted Airport may not be far behind. Currently, it's not being controlled by the CAA, but they're analyzing how the airport could benefit from regulation. In other words, depending on their decision, you could even see ticket prices into Stansted increase.