September 18, 2008

BAA to Sell Off Gatwick After Report Ruling Sale Fuels Fears Over Glasgow’s Long-Term Future


GATWICK Airport was today put up for sale, leaving major question marks over the ownership of Glasgow Airport.

Under-fire airports operator BAA has announced plans to sell Gatwick "immediately" - just weeks after the Competition Commission claimed the company faced "significant competition problems" because it also owns London's Heathrow and Stansted.

CC chiefs recommended that two of the airports should be sold and today BAA chief executive Colin Matthews announced buyers would be sought for Gatwick, the UK's second busiest airport which was used by 35 million passengers last year.

He said: "Gatwick has long been an important and valuable part of BAA and the decision to sell was not taken lightly.

"We believe that the airport's customers, staff and business will benefi t from the earliest possible resolution of current uncertainty."

The Competition Commission also wanted BAA to sell off one of its three airports in Scotland, fuelling speculation that bosses would go for a GBP1billion sell-off of Glasgow rather than Edinburgh or Aberdeen.

But BAA today said it has no plans to sell any of its Scottish airports or any other London ones and it will be challenging the ruling.

As the Gatwick sale was announced Sir Richard Branson's airline, Virgin Atlantic, said it would "relish" the chance to buy it.

Spanish-owned BAA said it was beginning the sale process for the West Sussex airport "immediately" and that customers, staff and business would benefit from the decision.

The BAA move follows a damning CC report last month which spoke of poor levels of service for airlines and passengers .

Manchester Airport Group, which includes Manchester in its fourairport portfolio, is another company that has expressed interest in running a BAA airport, along with firms from Germany and Australia.

Steve Turner, national officer of the Unite trade union, said it "beggared belief" that a "For Sale" sign could be hung over Gatwick and that the news was "devastating" to Gatwick staff and would also hit passengers.

The GMB union, which represents thousands of airport workers, called on the government to take a share of Gatwick.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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