The threat of ever-higher charges, luggage chaos and even a rush-hour breakdown on the Heathrow Express: the first day for the new boss of Europe's busiest airport is proving far from smooth.
John Holland-Kaye, who took over as Heathrow's chief executive this morning, confirmed that passenger fees could rise by around 20 per cent to pay for the construction of a new runway, if the Davies Commission approves expansion at Heathrow. At present each long-haul departing passenger pays just under £40; this could rise to almost £50. But eventually fares should fall, he claimed, once the extra capacity spurs competition.
Two possible plans for a third runway at Heathrow are being considered by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission, as well as an option for a second runway at Gatwick.
Mr Holland is also facing criticism over four days of baggage-belt breakdowns at Terminal 5, which left tens of thousands of British Airways passengers separated from their luggage. Bags are currently stacked up at Heathrow and other airports as BA seeks to get them back to their owners. The airline is squarely blaming the airport, citing “intermittent IT-related faults with Heathrow Airport's baggage system”.
At Heathrow’s brand-new Terminal 2, the airport owner has been forced to delay the move of two big airlines because of more problems with baggage. Reports from passengers and staff with United and Air Canada, the earliest tenants, indicate significant flaws with the intricate baggage system: luggage is sent to the adjacent Terminal 1 for screening before being returned to Terminal 2 to be loaded onto aircraft. Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines were due to move tomorrow to the new terminal, but those moves have been delayed indefinitely.
Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic domestic flights are due to move next week, but a final decision has not yet been taken about whether they will go ahead.
Mr Holland-Kaye told The Independent: “It was always planned that we would bring forward or hold back airline moves depending on how Terminal 2 was working.”
The Queen officially opened the new £2.5bn terminal last week.