Heathrow narrows losses as weather improves

Surging parking fees and lower bills for weather disruption thanks to the mild Spring helped Heathrow airport narrow its loss to £15 million for the first three months of this year.

That was down from a £196 million loss between January and March in 2013 as revenues at the world’s busiest airport rose 10.8% to  £576 million.

Heathrow’s car parking revenue leapt 9.5% and income from take-off and landing fees surged 18.3% to £356 million.

Traffic at the airport, which is full to capacity, rose just 0.5% to 16 million passengers for the three months, stymied by the timing of Easter which shifted the airport’s peak period from March in 2013 to April this year.

Heathrow claimed stripping out that difference meant its underlying growth for the first three months of 2014 was 2%, mostly because airlines are using larger planes with more passengers on board.

Chief executive Colin Matthews, who surprised the market by announcing his own departure earlier this month, promised the redeveloped Terminal 2, which is due to open on June 4, was “on time and on budget”.

Jose Leo, finance boss at Heathrow, ruled himself out of being Matthews’ replacement, saying “I’m not the person for that job.”

Leo added: “Everybody is involved in the hunt. It’s a very senior and important person for the business.”

The airport’s domestic traffic grew 7.8% in the first three months of the year, helped by the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red, with its regular London to Edinburgh flights, in summer 2013.

Heathrow also claimed it had “refined” its business plan after what it dubbed “draconian” price cuts ordered by the airport regulator that, after April 1, mean passengers pay lower fares.

The Civil Aviation Authority ruled that take-off and landing fees at Heathrow should fall in real terms by 1.5% per year between 2014 and 2019.

This is in contrast to Heathrow’s request for fees to rise by 4.6% above inflation for five years.

The airport said it was now “focused on delivering operating efficiencies”.

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