Coronavirus: Travel certificates now being issued without date restrictions

Heathrow will be allowed to raise passenger charges by up to 56% under plans announced by the aviation regulator.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is consulting on increasing the cap on the west London airport’s price per passenger from £22 last year to between £24.50 and £34.40.

It is proposing that the exact figure will depend on factors such as passenger demand and commercial revenue, with prices higher if Heathrow continues to struggle in those areas.

The range is planned to come in effect from summer 2022, with an interim cap of £30 being introduced at the beginning of the year.

The charges are ultimately paid by passengers as airlines add the cost to the price of tickets.

Heathrow had called for the cap to range from £32-£43 for the five-year period being consulted on.

The airport said in July that its losses from the Covid-19 pandemic had hit £2.9 billion.

Passenger numbers in September were just 38% of pre-pandemic levels.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said: “While international air travel is still recovering, setting a price control for Heathrow Airport against the backdrop of so much uncertainty means we have had to adapt our approach.

“Our principal objective is to further the interests of consumers while recognising the challenges the industry has faced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These initial proposals seek to protect consumers against unfair charges, and will allow Heathrow to continue to appropriately invest in keeping the airport resilient, efficient and one that provides a good experience for passengers.”

A Heathrow spokesman said: “While it is right the CAA protect consumers against excessive profits and waste, the settlement is not designed to shield airlines from legitimate cost increases or the impacts of fewer people travelling.

“We look forward to discussing the CAA’s proposals in detail with the regulator and our airline partners as we work towards a new settlement.”

He added that the “power of private investment” has led to the airport being ranked by passengers as one of the best in the world, and for this to continue “the settlement should safeguard a fair return for investors”.

Last week Willie Walsh, former boss of British Airways’ parent company IAG, accused Heathrow of being a “greedy monopoly hub airport” over its proposal for increasing charges.

Mr Walsh, who is director general of the International Air Transport Association trade body, said it was “time for Heathrow’s shareholders to step up” after enjoying “steady returns for years”.

Earlier this year, the CAA announced that Heathrow would be allowed to raise an additional £300 million from increased charges due to the pandemic.

The regulator said on Tuesday that it is not planning to adjust this amount.

Heathrow had asked last year for the total to be set at £2.6 billion.

Consultations on the interim price cap and the wider proposals will run until November 17 and December 17 respectively.

Travel certificates are now being issued without any date restrictions and auto-renew once they reach expiry without any need to re-apply, the Department of Health has said.

The COVID Certification Service issues certificates for people travelling abroad, digitally via the ‘COVIDCert NI’ app, via pdf, and in print.

The department added: "Since the service was launched on Friday July 2, more than 220,000 certificates have been issued to citizens in NI, supporting international travel.

"If you are planning a holiday overseas at any time over the next 12 months, the advice is to apply now, ahead of any holiday season rush."

Dr Eddie O’Neill said: “Given the very strong demand for the certificates in the summer, we had to limit applications to prioritise those who were about to head off for their holidays.

“Such date restrictions no longer apply – anyone who wants a COVIDCert NI certificate is free to apply for one right now.

“If you intend to travel abroad at any point in the next 12 months, you should apply as soon as possible.

“I can also confirm that the certificates in the COVIDCert NI app now auto renew, without users having to take any further action. Renewed pdf certificates can also be accessed via your nidirect account online.”

The COVIDCert NI certificate provides official confirmation that you have been fully vaccinated – having had both doses of a UK approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Applications for the certificate can be made via NI Direct: