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30 April 2013, 11:52 | Updated: 30 April 2013, 11:57
The cost of flying from Stansted Airport could fall, after regulators proposed major changes to the way airlines are charged for using London's three main airports.
The proposals from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will mean airlines will be charged far less for using Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports from 2014-19 than they were for the 2009-14 period.
This will, in turn, limit the fare rises that would be imposed on passengers at these airports.
It's reported any reductions could also be passed on to passengers.
The CAA proposals, to be finalised next year, also provide cheer for the airlines which have been arguing against what they see as excessive charges.
Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are the only airports regulated by the CAA which can cap the amount the airports can impose on airlines in take-off and landing fees.
At Stansted, where Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has long complained about the level of charges, the CAA's regulation will take the form of monitoring charges and service quality.
The CAA said this would ensure passengers at the Essex airport were protected while minimising the regulatory burden on airport and airlines. But the CAA said it might impose more detailed regulation "unless prices at Stansted reduce over time''.
CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: "Protecting consumers and improving their experience is the core focus of our regulatory decision-making.
"Few passengers flying from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted fail to notice their differences, so it should be no surprise that our regulatory approach also differs at each airport.
"The proposals we publish today reflect their individual circumstances, ensure passengers are protected when they travel, and allow for continuing improvements in service and competition.''
This is the first time that a five-year set of charges has been announced when the three London airports have been under separate management.
Before, airport operator BAA - now known as Heathrow - ran all three airports. But Gatwick is now operated by Global Infrastructure Partners, which also runs London City Airport and the former BAA-operated Edinburgh Airport, while Stansted's new owner is the Manchester Airports Group.
A Stansted spokesman said: "The CAA's initial proposals set out a new way of regulating Stansted in Q6 (2014-19), and we will need to study the details carefully and discuss them with the CAA before responding to the consultation.''
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), which represents 80 airlines, gave a cautious welcome to the CAA's proposals.
BAR UK chief executive Dale Keller said: "It is encouraging that the CAA has listened to industry concerns over the need for a more-flexible, market-based approach than previous regimes and we are cautiously optimistic that the final regulation will better meet the needs of consumers and the airline industry.
"Incorporating increased collaboration between airport operators and the airlines within the regulatory framework is particularly welcome since industry agreement is always preferable to excessive regulation.
"While we believe that the pricing caps do not go far enough to drive the level of efficiency gains at airports that airlines and their passengers are seeking, the proposals are a step in the right direction.''