Trade associations the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), RHA and the UK Coach Operators Association (UKCOA) are jointly asking Heathrow Airport to extend the period over which it recoups losses incurred by the West Ramp Coach Park that have led it to sharply increase the cost of using the facility from 1 July.
A letter from Heathrow Airport Aviation Director Fiona Carleton reveals that the cost of using West Ramp will increase to £56.54 per vehicle from that date. That is a 95% increase on the current £28.98. All coaches travelling to the airport to collect groups are required to use West Ramp, from where they are called to the relevant pick-up area.
Heathrow coach park price increase angers industry
News of the increase has been greeted with scorn by the coach industry. CPT, RHA and UKCOA were not consulted by Heathrow before it announced the change. That has been described as “deeply concerning” by RHA Operations Manager for Coaches Andy Warrender, who says the lack of engagement is contrary to previous practice.
He points out that in previous years, there has been an “established protocol” where proposals for changes to West Ramp charges, backed by figures, are put to trade representatives. Such an approach “gave total transparency and opportunity for scrutiny.”
Ms Carleton notes that Civil Aviation Authority regulations require that Other Regulated Charges – of which the fee for using West Ramp is one – may not generate any profit or loss for the airport. Revenue from the coach park has been hit by the collapse of incoming tourism and thus Heathrow must recover its losses via an increase in the fee, she says.
“Additionally, use of this service will continue to remain well below normal levels. The result of two years of low usage is an increase to the price,” adds Ms Carleton.
CPT, RHA and UKCOA are now working together to understand how the new price was arrived at and they are asking the airport to recover its losses over a longer period. In the 2016-17 arrangement, the West Ramp charge was fixed for two years and the previous year’s deficit was absorbed over that extended period, Mr Warrender says.
‘Would expect price to decrease as more coaches use park’
A statement from Heathrow claims that the increase in the charge for using West Ramp is “to enable the airport to cover its costs and to continue to operate safely. The service does not generate revenue for the airport.” It is understood that other non-coach facilities at Heathrow will also see an increase in their respective charges.
Heathrow says that the West Ramp charge is reviewed annually. It thus “would expect the price to decrease as more passengers return to the airport and more coaches use the coach park.”
Bookings for West Ramp can currently only be made until 30 June, at the rate of £28.98 per vehicle. None are possible beyond that date, contrary to the airport’s coach parking website help and FAQ page. It states that bookings can be made up to 12 months in advance, and that once accepted, reservations are protected against price changes.