BRITAIN´S Competition Commission is taking an extremely cautious approach to its judgement on the future of the British Airports Authority, BAA. In April it released an opinion that BAA's monopoly holding of most of Britain's airports “may well not be serving the interests of airlines and passengers”.

Yesterday, it was a little braver, saying the common ownership of airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead “has adverse consequences for passengers and airlines.” But then it drew back a little, pointing out that the options it set out for breaking the BAA's monopoly are subject to consultation with those principally involved before a final recommendation is made to the government next May.

Essentially, the Commission thinks that BAA should probably sell two of its three London airports and also either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
For its part BAA has had no difficulty in making up its mind. Yesterday its chief executive Colin Matthews described the Commission's analysis as “flawed” and its remedies as “counter productive”. It pointed out that Heathrow and Gatwick are complementary rather than competitive; Heathrow is in keen competition with Paris and Schipol to maintain its place as Europe's number one “hub” airport -- a role that is extremely lucrative as globe-trotting passengers use it for access to 180 destination. A key decision in relation to this competition is the government's over Heathrow's much-needed third runway. Ferrovial, the Spanish owner of BAA would probably decide to keep the crown-jewel of Heathrow if it is eventually forced to sell two of the London three.


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