Heathrow Airport Holdings and three major airlines have lost an appeal against the UK Civil Aviation Authority's decision to implement a price cap at London Heathrow for 2022-2026.

This follows the publication on October 17 of the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) final decision on a price control decision by the CAA, which details how much the airport operator can charge airlines, per passenger, for using its services. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Delta Air Lines appealed a March 9, 2023, decision by the regulator, wanting a steeper cut in levies, while the airport said this would stymie infrastructure improvements to the detriment of consumers.

Having considered the airlines' appeals, the CMA found that the CAA's Heathrow price control "struck broadly the right balance between ensuring prices for passengers are not too high and encouraging investors to maintain and improve the airport over time," commented CMA chairwoman Kirstin Baker. "There are a handful of smaller issues we have ordered the CAA to look at again, and it has agreed to do this swiftly," she added.

However, Virgin Atlantic disagreed: "Following more than three years of regulated consultation on Heathrow charges, it's disappointing that the CMA has largely endorsed the CAA's decision, which did not go far enough to protect consumers from excessive charges at Heathrow. Heathrow Airport's repeated attempts to impose excessive charges demonstrate how the regulatory framework, including the formula used to set charges at the world's most expensive airport, is broken," the airline said in a statement.

"With fresh leadership at both the CAA and Heathrow, now's the time for a fundamental review of how these charges are set, ensuring that customers are protected ahead of shareholders. Heathrow must work collaboratively with airlines to ensure it gets back to its best, so it can deliver a world-class experience commensurate with being the world's most expensive airport," it added.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said: "We're naturally disappointed, but it's time to move on. We will do our best to deliver the outcomes that passengers told us they wanted within this tight framework. Going forward, the CAA needs to take more account of the views of consumers so that the settlement delivers the Heathrow experience passengers are looking for and not just higher profits for airlines."

Luis Gallego, Chief Executive Officer of IAG International Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways, said: "Heathrow's charges remain among the highest in the world and are not competitive. We would like to work with the CAA to improve the regulatory framework for the future."

Delta Air Lines declined to comment.

In March, the UK CAA announced that Heathrow's charges for 2023 would be capped at a maximum of GBP31.57 pounds (USD37.4) per passenger. In 2024, the maximum price per passenger would drop by 20% to GBP25.43 (USD30.19) and remain at that level until the end of 2026.