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The Competition Commission has told BAA it has “no grounds for delaying further” the sale of Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Stansted must be sold first, as it serves the larger number of passengers, and must be put on the market within three months.
The Competition Commission published its final report today (July 19) into the break-up of BAA-operated airports.
The ruling follows a lengthy series of unsuccesful appeals from BAA following the CC’s original ruling in March 2009, when the airport operator was told to sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Gatwick Airport has since been sold, leaving Stansted and the Scottish airports.
Peter Freeman, chairman of the CC’s BAA remedies implementation group, said passengers and airlines would benefit from the sale.
“The introduction of new ownership at Gatwick, whilst too recent for us to draw any firm conclusions, has given a foretaste of the benefits competition can bring,” he said.
“We think that these benefits will be all the greater once Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow are all in competition with each other.”
BAA has reacted with dismay to the news – Colin Matthews, CEO, said the decision would “damage the company”.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, he said the CC's ruling was "unreasonably draconian" and denied BAA has any monopoly over airports.
He said: “The Competition Commission has not recognised that the world and BAA have changed.”
The airport operator is now considering a judicial review.
Matthews maintained that BAA has invested significantly in customer service at its airports – £5 billion since 2006, with a further £1 billion to be invested each year in the future.
BAA has not yet decided whether to sell Edinburgh or Glasgow, he added.
Paul Simmons, Easyjet’s UK Director, has spoken out in support of the Competition Commission's ruling.
He suggested the sale of two of BAA’s airports should encourage “more timely, well-designed and cost effective investment”.
He said: “Easyjet supports the efforts of the Competition Commission to improve outcomes for passengers in the London and Scotland airport markets.
“Millions of our passengers travel through these regions each year, and we hope that they will have a better experience at these airports with a change in ownership.”
Simmons added he hoped to see an improvement in service quality and lower charges with the airports under new ownership.