The UK Competition Commission’s long-awaited provisional ruling on BAA’s ownership of seven UK airports is harsher than many expected, but is arguably what’s needed to improve conditions at London’s airports.
The CC today said that two of BAA’s three London airports should be sold, along with either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
It’s highly unlikely that BAA will let go of Heathrow, so it looks like Gatwick and Stansted will be looking for new owners next year.
Airlines that use BAA’s airports and have been complaining for some time about the high fees and lack of service that they attribute to monopoly ownership have predictably welcomed today’s provisional ruling.
EasyJet congratulates the ruling, but says the break-up is only worthy of a bronze medal, whereas the gold medal would go to better regulation.
And Ryanair, which has been scathing in its relentless attacks on Stansted, reminded everybody today that it had “long called for the break-up of this abusive monopoly, which ignores the needs of airlines and the travelling public and charges rip-off prices for abysmal services”.
As anyone who has travelled through either Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted can attest, the level of service often leaves a lot to be desired. Overcrowded, understaffed and unpleasant are three words that come to my mind. Hopefully things will improve when all three airports are competing with one another under separate ownership.
However, it looks like BAA does not plan to give up without a fight. In a statement today, the airports operator, which is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, said it will “continue to point out to the Commission the many areas where we believe its analysis is flawed and its remedies would be disproportionate and counter-productive”.
The CC will publish its final report on the matter in the first quarter of 2009. What are your thoughts? Has the CC made a fair assessment? And would things improve under separate ownership?