SPANISH-OWNED airport operator BAA has won its appeal against the Competition Commission’s ruling that it must sell three of its seven UK airports. The regulatory body had ruled in March 2009 that BAA must sell London/Gatwick and London/Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports within a two-year period but a tribunal reached a verdict in December 2009 that the panel was affected by “apparent bias”.
BAA had raised the appeal after discovering that one of the panellists had a clear conflict of interest because of links to an organisation interested in buying the airports. The company has already completed the sale of Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) but has not begun the sale process for the other airports. The Competition Appeal Tribunal has advised that more time should be taken to hear arguments from both sides as to what should happen next.
Earlier the same month BAA got another boost after a UK Government Transport Committee backed plans to build a third runway at London/Heathrow. Despite high-profile opposition from some leading politicians, environmental groups and local residents, the committee endorsed the government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow, subject to the effective application of tough environmental conditions. However, it questioned the need for a second runway at Stansted and suggested ministers reconsider whether Gatwick might prove to be a better location for future expansion after 2019.
The committee also concluded that the 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, “continues to provide a sound basis for aviation policy” but it warned the government “must update its assessment of the economic value of aviation for the UK economy.”