Airlines Express Discontent Over Increased Air Traffic Control Charges in the UK

Airlines have expressed their disapproval over the decision by the UK's aviation regulator to raise the fees for air traffic control services. This move is aimed at helping NATS, the national provider, recover from the financial losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. NATS has been under scrutiny following a major outage in late August that resulted in numerous flight cancellations and delays across Britain and Europe, costing airlines millions of pounds. 


Last week, airline executives demanded new regulations for passenger compensation in case of similar disruptions. Airlines UK, a trade group representing carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair, argued that the increased charges are unjustifiable given the uncertainty over measures to prevent a recurrence of such disruptions.


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed on Thursday a preliminary decision made in July that allows NATS to increase the average unit rate for regulated activities from 47 pounds to 64 pounds ($78) from 2023 to 2027. Consequently, the average cost of UK air traffic services per passenger per flight would rise by 43 pence, averaging around 2.08 pounds, according to the CAA.


Jonathan Hinkles, CEO of Loganair, expressed his disappointment in a LinkedIn post, stating that charges for 2024 were expected to return to normal levels plus inflation. However, something has gone terribly wrong. The CAA justified the new prices as necessary for maintaining service quality and safety. It clarified that the price control increase process started before the NATS outage and is not related to the review and investigation of the incident. Airlines for Europe, which includes British Airways owner IAG and Ryanair among its members, criticized the decision saying that increasing prices after last summer's significant system failure equates to rewarding incompetence.

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