Heathrow is preparing to nearly triple the fee it charges London’s black cabs that collect passengers from the airport, an increase that drivers warn will be “devastating” to their businesses.
Taxis will have to pay £10 ($13) from July, compared with £3.60 at present.
The price rise will help Heathrow to recoup the £1.4 million it lost running the airport taxi rank last year, when passenger numbers collapsed as travel restrictions hit the aviation industry.
Numbers at the airport last year fell to levels not seen since the 1970s, and Heathrow is losing £5m a day.
Access there is tightly controlled, and taxis must queue in a parking area on the outskirts of the airport while waiting to be directed to terminals to collect passengers.
Waiting times were about three hours before the pandemic, but have routinely stretched to 24 hours over the past year, taxi drivers say.
To make ends meet, some are doing four to five-day stints “essentially living at the airport” while they queue for passengers, and only returning home to see their families at weekends, said Sam Houston, a driver who is a regular in the queue.
“It is that desperate, it is like working in another country,” Mr Houston said.
London’s black cabs, already suffering from cheaper competition from ride-hailing apps such as Uber, have had a collapse in revenue during the pandemic, forcing many drivers to quit.
Most are earning less than 30 per cent of their usual income, says the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association.
“We appreciate the huge challenges Heathrow and the aviation industry have faced as a result of the pandemic, but the taxi trade has been hit just as hard,” the association said.
“It will take time for passenger demand to pick up and for our trade to recover. Anything that significantly increases drivers’ costs in the short-term will prove devastating.”
The association suggested that Heathrow limit the price increase by spreading the cost over a five-year period, but the airport indicated it was moving ahead.
Heathrow said Civil Aviation Authority regulations meant it could not generate any profit from services such as the taxi feeder system.
It said that any lost revenue was factored in the following year, meaning prices have inevitably risen.
“We have delayed increasing the charge for the taxi feeder park for as long as possible, but it will now increase from July 1," the airport said.
"The price will decrease in future as passenger numbers increase."