Heathrow’s summer season likely to be weaker than previously expected.

Airport news for Flights,Heathrow on 28/04/2011.

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Heathrow airport is expected to handle fewer passengers this summer than has previously been forecast. Airport operator BAA announced the downward revision on Wednesday but said the weakened passenger traffic is it not expected to have a material effect on earnings over the long term.

BAA said passenger traffic at the busiest international airport in the world is likely to miss earlier forecasts because airlines have been slower to move to larger aircraft than expected and carriers are putting greater emphasis now on roomy premium seating than on growing volumes in economy class.

Colin Mathews, Chief Executive at BAA, said it was important for the airport operator to produce accurate forecasts for its next five-year review, which is when investment requirements and price caps for airport fees would be set. BAA, which is owned by Spanish firm Ferrovial, generates some of its revenues from each arriving traveller.

Mr Mathews said overestimating passenger traffic would lead to BAA making unnecessary investment in terminal capacity. It would also lead to revenues coming in below forecasts.

BAA is currently mid-way through a heavy investment programme at Heathrow. It is spending £5 billion to upgrade operations and facilities at the airport.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the price tariffs BAA can charge. The CAA said BAA could be allowed a higher price cap on the basis of lower passenger volumes but tariffs would also be based on other factors, like fuel prices.

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