Flybe defeated in battle over Gatwick fees
Airport fees which see Flybe charged the same for one of its 78-seater planes as larger airlines are for jumbo jets carrying up to 853 passengers have been branded "ludicrous" by the Exeter airline.
Flybe complained to the Civil Aviation Authority about changes to charges at Gatwick Airport which saw it hike summer landing charges by 62.5%, while reducing winter charges to zero. Its main frustration was that Gatwick's peak summer landing charges do not take into account the weight of an aircraft, meaning that one of its smaller craft pays the same as much larger planes at this time.
Flybe spokesman Niall Duffy said: "It's a ludicrous situation where one of our turbo prop Q400 planes travelling from Newquay to Gatwick is now charged the same as an A380 with up to 853 passengers."
He added: "Flybe is obviously disappointed that the CAA, after some two years of consideration, found that Gatwick were within their rights to discriminate against operators of small, regional aircraft by means of significant landing fee rises and we will continue to press the Government to correct such a system.
"Flybe is pleased, but perplexed, by the CAA's admission that passengers have been and will be harmed by Gatwick's policy, though we strongly disagree with the CAA's findings on the extent of this harm."
But the CAA, while acknowledging that the policy did discriminate against smaller airlines, said that the level of discrimination was not unreasonable because the airport was seeking to maximise efficient use of its single runway.
In its complaint, Flybe said by increasing charges in this way, charges per departing passenger from Gatwick would rise by an average of 18% forcing it to either increase prices or withdraw some services.
Flybe said that Gatwick had made it clear during consultation that its intention was to encourage the use of larger aircraft for long haul flights at the expense of smaller aircraft.
The airline said that this would undermine regional air travel in the UK, making it more difficult for airports such as Newquay Cornwall to feed passengers into Gatwick's international hub.
Gatwick Airport told the CAA that there was excess demand for its runway and that it wanted to encourage the use of peak slots by larger planes. In making its ruling, the CAA said that Flybe had gained market share on six out of the ten routes it operates from Gatwick since the new charges were introduced, saying that passenger numbers on these routes had increased by 6.7%.