Heathrow plans switch to weight-based cargo charge

By Damian Brett

Source: Heathrow Airports Limited

Heathrow Airport is proposing to change the way it charges for cargo, including the introduction of a new weight-based system.

Under a new proposal, both passenger aircraft carrying cargo and freighter aircraft will pay a new weight-based charge of £40 per metric tonne, although the airport hopes to offset this for passenger airlines through the reduction of other fees.

For freighters, the airport has also proposed a minimum weight that is expected to be carried – if the weight of cargo comes in below this minimum, a flat Minimum Cargo Charge (MCC) will be applied instead of the weight-based system.

The MCC for domestic flights is 10 tonnes, which equates to £400. For European and the Rest of the World flights, the minimum is 30 tonnes or £1,200.

The airport said that having an MCC should help ensure that freighter capacity is efficiently utilised.

The weight-based\MCC system will replace the existing flat fee Minimum Departure Charge that freighters currently pay.

Passenger aircraft carrying cargo will not face the MCC but will continue to pay the usual charges faced by a passenger flight as well as the weight-based system.

The airport said that the cargo revenues generated on passenger aircraft through the weight-based charging system would be offset by reductions in passenger, movement, and parking charges.

“We are proposing to change the way that cargo movements are charged to better reflect the true nature of a cargo versus passenger movement and any changes in the cargo environment and furthermore, to support the principle of incentivising the best use of airport infrastructure and assets from all airport users,” the airport said in its proposal.

It added: “The introduction of a weight-based cargo charge with an associated minimum cargo charge for cargo movements to ensure charging for freighters remains competitive and reflects the use of airport facilities.

“The same weight-based cargo charge will apply to bellyhold cargo although it will be recovered as part of the maximum allowable yield and will therefore drive down other charges.”

The airport requested written responses to the proposals by September 30 with a final decision to be issued by October 31.

At the moment, the UK airfreight industry’s response is to adopt a ‘wait-and-see approach with the consultation still ongoing.

Much also depends on how airlines react to the charge.

With the airport seemingly trying to balance out the extra charge for bellyhold cargo by reducing passenger fees, the new system shouldn’t increase the overall cost for passenger airlines using Heathrow when carrying cargo.

However, forwarders are waiting to see if carriers will respond by trying to pass the cargo charge onto their customers – something that is harder to do at the moment as there is no separate cargo charge.

With regards to freighters, Heathrow handled very few all-cargo aircraft prior to Covid. 

The introduction of the fee for freighters could therefore encourage the airport to handle more all-cargo flights.

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