Ryanair launches complaint over alleged BAA overcharging

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Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has demanded that BAA revise its current price cap at Stansted in the light of what the carrier believes were monopoly abuses and overcharging over the past five years.

He revealed details of the complaint filed by Ryanair with both the CAA and Competition Commission. Brandishing BAA Stansted's regulatory accounts for 2006-2011, O'Leary highlighted what he saw as "an alarming scale of cost padding" in the figures and questioned how any company suffering a 30% decline in business could double its passenger charges.

"The costs are overstated by about £60 million [$98 million] a year and the charges are overstated by about £50 million. We account for about 70% of the traffic at Stansted, we're being overcharged by about £35 million a year and the other airlines about £15 million," he said.

He also accused BAA of overstating Stansted's regulatory asset base of £1.2 billion by £270 million of inflation adjustments and a further £194.2 million on BAA Stansted's abandoned second runway project.

O'Leary said that ideally the airline would have taken the action straight to court, but was obliged to first approach the CAA and the Competition Commission with its complaint.

Questioned whether it was more than a coincidence that Ryanair was complaining so soon after the announcement that Stansted was to be sold, O'Leary responded that the complaint was being aired as a result of the latest publication of BAA Stansted's regulatory accounts. "The difference is that in the 2011 and 2010 accounts, which have only just been published, they're the only two that have this detail explaining the operating expenditure," he said.

O'Leary said: "We'll be asking the CAA to do an interim review, but we don't believe they will, therefore we hope the Competition Commission will force the CAA to do it. If neither of those is successful, we're then off to the High Court."

O'Leary added that no other airline had yet complained, but said that he was sure if they were approached by Ryanair with the question "would you like to get your costs down by £15 million, they'll be fairly easy to convince".