BAA ‘may be legally obligated to sell airport’

BAA may be ordered to turn ownership of one of Scotland’s three busiest airports over to a rival to break up its control of the market, following a Competition Commission (CC) inquiry.

The CC investigation into the aviation industry is intended to examine the possible negative effects of BAA owning Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports as well as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Southampton in England.

High charges to airlines and complaints about customer service have led to the inquiry.

Christopher Clarke, inquiry group chairman, said: "We are looking at how common ownership could affect BAA’s incentives both to invest in and develop its airports and operate them."

He added that the CC was specifically calculating how the quantity, specification, quality, location and timeliness of capital expenditure, ranging from capacity to security, may be affected by common ownership.

Should the CC find any features of the aviation market that restrict, prevent or distort competition it has the power to issue a divestment order forcing the sale of one or more of the airports.

Around 1,700 aircraft currently take-off from BAA UK airports every day, equivalent to one every 30 seconds.