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A mysterious £8.90 tax is being added to all Heathrow flights

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A mysterious new tax is being added to all flights booked from London Heathrow. It started on Friday.

You will see it on your taxes breakdown as R1. Here is an example on an Economy flight from London to Rome:

The description for the charge says:


It appears to be £8.90 irrespective of whether you are flying short-haul or long-haul.

It applies to all airlines flying from Heathrow, but only from Heathrow. It is not added to inbound flights.

It is not linked to the standard ‘Passenger Service Charge’ or ‘Air Passenger Duty’, which continue to be charged at standard rates as the screenshot above shows.

This may be linked to Heathrow’s demand to have its covid losses repaid by passengers (see our other story today) but it seems unlikely as this requires authorisation by the Civil Aviation Authority.

We will update this article when we get a proper answer. Whatever the answer is, your next flight just got £8.90 more expensive.

Whilst existing ticket holders will not be asked for any additional money, British Airways may ask you to pay it if you make a change to an existing booking.

PS. We now have the answer, which is on page 6 of this document.

Put simply, Heathrow’s agreement with the airlines guarantees that they, and not the airport, will pay 100% of certain airport costs. With sharply reduced passenger numbers, the fees paid by airlines have not been high enough to cover these costs.

The £8.90 surcharge covers the loss Heathrow made in 2020 on providing certain services, as well as its estimate of on-going losses. The surcharge will, in theory, disappear when passenger volumes return to normal and the backlog of underpayments has been cleared.

Heathrow told us in a statement:

“Heathrow provides key airport services like the baggage system, colleague car parks, airline check-in desks and utilities for our partners to use. The fee to use these services is calculated purely to cover the cost of providing them – Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services. To ensure this remains the case, the fee is closely monitored by the CAA, as well as being scrutinised and agreed with airport users annually – as was the case with this year’s charge. The cost per passenger to cover these services naturally fluctuates depending on the number of passengers using the airport.”

Comments (71)

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  • marcw says:

    Now consumers have to pay directly airline costs. Previously we paid it indirectly – now it’s being paid directly by us.
    This has been orchestrated by BOTH the AIRLINES and HEATHROW.

    • ChrisC says:

      What do you think the “passenger service fee” was for it wasn’t for the airport costs that aren’t included in the landing fees?

      • marcw says:

        Not everything is covered by the pax service fee. Check-in desks? Baggage handling system and storage? are just a few …
        What happens here is that previously yearly contracts with airlines are now power-by-the-hour (=pax) contracts.
        Airport and airlines are very happy about this.

  • Steve says:

    “The surcharge will, in theory, disappear when passenger volumes return to normal and the backlog of underpayments has been cleared.”
    Yes, I’m sure it will disappear and we won’t be revisiting this when it increases to £10.00 next year and £12.50 in 2023.

    • Ming the Merciless says:

      Similar to Income tax, a temporary tax to help through tough times that never gets removed. (Napoleonic wars from memory)

  • George K says:

    Ripoff Britain. The fee could have been £28.40 and we still wouldn’t be able to do anything about it

    • ChrisC says:

      True but at least it’s out in the open and not hidden in the base fare, airline surcharges or the passenger service fee.

      • kitten says:

        has the regulator sanctioned this? can it be legally challenged?

        other businesses have lost money too but are not in a position to abuse customers when their business suffers an event their business planning and saving alongside any relevant business interruption insurance, should be what they turn to.

        Given the enormous profits made in this business due to being given a monopoly to collect rent off, this is an abuse of monopoly power by Heathrow.

        They should suffer and deal like other businesses have to and should not be allowed to abuse their monopoly position

        • kitten says:

          If they need money to get through this they should turn to their shareholders, restructure, lease out assets etc like other businesses are having to.

          • Dom says:

            Yup. This country is a massive scam. And every political party just loves bending over for the shareholders.

  • Fenny says:

    Good job I have no current plans to fly from LHR. Whether or not it disappears in the future is another matter.

  • babyg says:

    People could vote with their feet (avoid LHR)… but alas people wont, its either too much of a hassle or it would cost more the £8.90 to get to an alternative airport. Whats galling is the profits they make in the good years, only to have nothing in the coffers to ride out the bad years…

    • kitten says:

      exactly. see my comments above. Time the UK stopped the shareholders of UK monopolies they’ve granted taking money in good years then deciding to run bad years on current account that they then abuse their business partners and UK customers to fill.

  • David Cohen says:

    I guess my question is why is it £8.90? What calculations have gone into coming up with that amount? If the PSC can’t be increased without the CAA’s agreement, surely they’re (even more) pointless that I thought they were if they have no powers to prevent Heathrow adding a further charge.

    Finally, the blurb that Heathrow published about this seems to imply it’s at the airlines’ request. However IAG appear to contradict this.

    It would be good to get some confirmation of exactly who asked for this, and where the funds go.

    • Rob says:

      The document does break out fairly well what items are included. What we don’t know is over what period Heathrow is collecting what it is due.

      Does it plan to charge £8.90 for 6 months to recover the underpayments for 2020? Or 12 months? Why not £4.45 for 24 months in that case?

  • DavidB says:

    Yet another reason to not visit the UK when travel becomes possible again. I’ve boycotted your country since the years it introduced those usurious fees on tickets and refuse to give a single pence to visit my ancestral homeland. (It’s bad enough having to endure the disastrous airport that is LHR when connecting onward as a BAGold.)

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Erm you’d pay it on all Heathrow departures including if you were simply flying through on a connection …

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