People queue to enter the departures area at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, Dec. 21, 2020. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)

Air fares from London’s Heathrow Airport to rise in April due to “pandemic tax”

An additional tax will be added to outbound flights from London’s Heathrow Airport, the largest airport in Britain, from April, adding pressure on many families who want to travel abroad after a year of COVID-19 restrictions, local media reported Sunday.   

The airport will charge an extra 8.90 pounds (about 12.46 U.S. dollars), also known as United Kingdom Exceptional Regulatory Charge, to all outgoing flights from April, increasing the fees it already charges which include baggage handling, water, electricity and other services, the London-based Evening Standard newspaper reported.   

This means a family of five booking a summer holiday with British Airways would pay an extra 44.50 pounds (about 62.32 dollars) for using the London airport, said the newspaper.   

The stealth tax, which must be passed by airlines to Heathrow, is an attempt to recover from the airport’s financial loss last year when a decrease in travel and passenger numbers left the airport with losses of 2 billion pounds last year due to the pandemic, said the newspaper.   

A Heathrow spokesperson told the newspaper that “Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services. The price is calculated purely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure that supports them.”   

Heathrow airport plunged to an annual loss of 2 billion pounds in 2020 as the pandemic closed borders and the government restricted most international travel.   

The number of passengers who passed through slumped to 22.1 million last year — more than half of whom traveled in January and February 2020 — a fall of 73 percent compared with a year earlier and the smallest annual total since 1975, the Guardian newspaper reported.   

Cargo volumes also fell by 28 percent during 2020, although some dedicated cargo flights helped the airport offset some of the lost passenger travel, said the newspaper.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.