All flights from Heathrow Airport are now nearly £10 more expensive

Feb 9, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

All flights departing from London Heathrow appear to have a new fee that you can expect to shell out for your next flight.

The new £8.90 fee shows on all flights departing from Heathrow, regardless of the airline or class of service. But, what’s it for? The airport told TPG in a statement that it’s used for certain services offered at Heathrow. This, as opposed to helping the airport recover from its COVID-19-related losses.

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Heathrow explained to TPG that the new fee does not have to do with the £2.8 billion bailout for the airport, which is under consultation by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). A spokesperson clarified, too, that the airport does not profit from this new fee.

In a statement, a Heathrow spokesperson told TPG:

“Heathrow provides key airport services like the baggage system, colleague car parks, airline check-in desks and utilities for our partners to use. The fee to use these services is calculated purely to cover the cost of providing them – Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services. To ensure this remains the case, the fee is closely monitored by the CAA, as well as being scrutinised and agreed with airport users annually – as was the case with this year’s charge. The cost per passenger to cover these services naturally fluctuates depending on the number of passengers using the airport.”

The new £8.90 charge, which was reported by Head for Points, shows up differently on many of the airlines that operate from Heathrow. However, if you have a flight that travels from Heathrow to another destination — including a return itinerary — you will find the £8.90 charge added in the taxes, fees and surcharges section of the fare breakdown.

For example, Virgin Atlantic lists the new charge as “United Kingdom Exceptional Regulatory Charge” on this sample return itinerary in Upper Class from London Heathrow to Barbados.

(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Meanwhile, British Airways lists the new charge as “R1” on this sample return itinerary in Euro Traveller from London Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG).

(Image courtesy of British Airways)

In each of the examples above, the charge is separate from the standard Passenger Service Charge and Air Passenger Duty tax on flights from the United Kingdom. If you’re travelling on a one-way ticket from another airport to London Heathrow, you won’t find the added fee — only tickets that operate from London Heathrow will be subject to the fee.

The question still remains as to whether passengers may be asked to bail Heathrow out by way of paying additional fees to airlines. International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, among others, has opposed the idea.

“It’s not fair nor reasonable to ask consumers to bail out Heathrow,” a spokesperson for IAG said in a statement. “It’s a wealthy, privately owned company which should seek funds from its shareholders, as many other businesses in our industry have done to weather this pandemic.”

Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited is owned by a consortium of international entities. That includes stakes in Qatar, China, Canada, Spain and the United States, among others.

It’s no surprise that Heathrow Airport has suffered as a result of the pandemic. According to the CAA, passenger numbers at Heathrow were 83% lower in December 2020 compared to the same month the year prior. Heathrow Airport also lost its title as the busiest in Europe as a result of the downturn in air travel.

As the aviation and tourism industries largely remain at a standstill — especially in the U.K., where all non-essential travel is still illegal — there’s still a long way to go before passenger demand is expected to rebound.

“The path of recovery is highly uncertain,” the CAA said.

Featured photo by Andrew Holt/Getty Images.

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