BAA given leave to appeal against Stansted sale

It is the seventh time the Ferrovial-owned airports operator will lodge an appeal against the Competition Commission’s decision to force it to sell London’s Stansted Airport.

The Royal Courts of Justice yesterday gave airports operator BAA, owned by Spanish developer Ferrovial, leave to appeal against the most recent decision instructing it to comply with the Competition Commission’s ruling that it sell London’s Stansted Airport.

A spokesperson for BAA did not wish to comment on when BAA would actually lodge the appeal with the UK’s Court of Appeal or shed light on the timeline going forward. Instead, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement that “we are pleased that permission to appeal has been granted and we look forward to presenting our arguments before the Court of Appeal”.

BAA is arguing that conditions have changed significantly since the UK watchdog originally instructed it to sell its airports in a bid to break its monopoly in the UK airports sector.

Budget airline Ryanair, Stansted Airport’s main costumer, railed against the appeal decision, pointing out that this will be BAA’s seventh appeal against the sale of the London airport. “This seventh appeal will further delay the sale of Stansted, proving yet again that BAA has no regard for passengers, competition or tourism as it attempts to retain its stranglehold over London traffic,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Ryanair also accused BAA of neglecting Stansted, pointing out that traffic at the airport is in its fifth consecutive year of decline, having fallen by 25 percent from a 2007 peak of 24 million passengers to below 18 million in 2011. During this time, BAA has doubled fees at the airport, Ryanair contends.

BAA has been fighting a long-running battle with UK authorities to salvage its ownership of Stansted Airport, after having already been forced to sell Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, both acquired by Global Infrastructure Partners.

A spokesman from the Competition Commission, the UK watchdog that ordered BAA to sell Stansted and one of its Scottish airports last October, had previously told Infrastructure Investor that BAA can still appeal to a number of judicial bodies in a process that can delay the sale of Stansted for another few months.

According to him, if the Court of Appeal denies BAA’s latest motion, it can still try the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest body, before calling it quits.