Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
BAA Plc has stoutly defended itself against a charge of airport monopoly by the MPs on the Transport Select Committee. After all BAA only accounts for 93% of capacity in the crucial south east!
The protagonists have quickly lined themselves up. BMI and easyJet amongst those all for breaking up of BAA. BA, as it normally does, sitting on the fence and Ryanair, a foreign airline and usually the first to shoot its mouth off, being strangely quiet.
The Ryanair silence is not difficult to understand. That airline has had, within the last 12 months, a new purpose-built terminal constructed for itself at Stansted for free. All those years ago BAA was keen to entice the then emerging airline from Luton. Ryanair has been the cornerstone of the airport”s success story. With the original Stansted management back in place the attraction of a dedicated and simple (no air bridges) building at the airport was more than anything that TBI could muster at the admittedly better located Luton airport.
As for the rest, the anti-BAA stance is just as easy to see. They are being charged, and charged a lot, for a facility that they may not be allowed to use. True they will pass the cost on to the passenger but by the same token heavy airport fees may force customers to look away to major continental airports. British Airways, and presumably its Oneworld partners, will have a fine new terminal in a few years time (just as Air France has at CDG and Lufthansa at both Frankfurt and Munich) but what will be available for the rest? Terminal 4, a fine structure, if a bit spread out, but easy to get in and out of either by road or public transport; and the central area, a fast decaying monstrosity, a patchwork of ancient structures and do-it-yourself modernisation. Compare T1, T2 and T3 to an elderly, post second world war house with various extensions added from time to time, each designed by someone else. Would it not be easier to knock the whole lot down and start again? And if the answer is Yes should not BAA be telling us now and not in 2010 when T5 is actually up and running.
The real question is do we want to see BAA broken up? There are many who believe that if the status quo had been left with regard to Britain's railways we would have been better off than we are now with the train operators dependent on the track supplier rather than their own resources to ensure some consistent investment and, perhaps even better time keeping. By leaving BAA ”as is” we have the devil we know, for better or for worse. By breaking it up we would be into yet another period of uncertainty, with the outcome far from clear and nothing happening. There is a strong case for Gatwick to compete with Heathrow with the international service operations left in the hands of the major airport (that is the consultancy and overseas airport management and shops).
This would duplicate many of the current BAA activities and leave the south London airport as a minor hub without the resources to invest properly for the future. Perhaps the Scottish airports should be hived off as in the past they really were a monopoly. However Prestwick has shown that with tenacity, perseverance and initiative you can get an independent airport to work.
Perhaps it is too late to break BAA up. Had that company taken upon itself to seize Luton when a benevolent government was giving it carte blanche to do virtually whatever it wanted to 20 years ago things may well have been different. Luton might have been part of BAA and Stansted yet another former RAF base destined for oblivion.
The parliamentarians have had their (weighty) say. They believe that the BAA is behaving as a monopolist. One thing for sure. The politicians are not businessmen. They talk theory and not facts. In real life things are not so easy. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmtran/454/45402.htm