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Heathrow branded ‘massive gravy train’ as BA boss slams expansion costs

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

The boss of British Airways’ parent company has launched a bitter attack on Heathrow, condemning the airport for “making passengers stump up more than £3 billion” towards its third runway plans.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA and Aer Lingus owner IAG, branded the cost of the airport’s expansion a “heist” in a stinging broadside.

He said the airport has acted “irresponsibly” in spending £3.3 billion on the expansion before receiving planning permission for its proposals.

In a submission to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday, IAG urged the authority to stop the airport pushing through cost increases.

Mr Walsh said: “Heathrow’s on a massive gravy train and will do everything to protect that. We have absolutely no confidence in its ability to deliver cost-effective expansion.

“Spending £3.3 billion before receiving planning permission is irresponsible and it’s completely unacceptable to expect passengers to pick up the tab.

“The airport’s chief executive thinks expansion is a ‘fait accompli’ but, with judicial, environmental and political hurdles ahead, there’s no guarantee.”

IAG also claimed that Heathrow’s initial costs have spiralled by 250% over the past two years.

Mr Walsh went on: “Heathrow told the CAA that pre-planning permission costs were £915 million. They’ve now been ramped up to £3.3 billion.

“The airport is treating customers with contempt and the CAA like puppets.”

A Heathrow spokeswoman replied: “The costs for developing Heathrow out to 2050 are exactly the same as what we submitted to the Airports Commission – IAG’s misleading rhetoric won’t change history.

“What will change in the future is the huge increase in competition amongst airlines and choice for passengers that we will deliver by expanding Heathrow.

“We can’t be held up by IAG simply looking to protect their dominant position and record profits.”

Last month, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye insisted to the PA news agency that the project is “now happening” despite opposition from campaigners.

A group of councils, residents, environmental charities and London Mayor Sadiq Khan lost a High Court challenge against the Government’s decision to approve the plans in May.

But last month they were given the go-ahead to challenge the ruling.

The expansion of the airport has previously received opposition from new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who warned that he still had “grave reservations” over the runway plan and said he would follow the situation “very closely”.

Construction could begin in 2021 and the new runway could be opened by 2026.