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BAA’s successful airport defence faces challenge

The UK’s Competition Commission has launched an appeal against a ruling in December last year that it had shown “apparent bias” in ordering BAA to sell some of its British airports.

The battle between the UK’s Competition Commission (CC) and airports operator BAA has taken its latest twist as the CC announces that it will appeal against an earlier, successful BAA appeal. The battle revolves around whether or not BAA should have to divest a number of its UK airports.   

London's Gatwick airport

In March last year, the CC ruled that BAA would have to sell Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as either Glasgow or Edinburgh on the basis that BAA’s ownership of seven UK airports constituted a monopoly.

BAA then appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on the grounds of “apparent bias” given that a member of the CC’s inquiry panel, Peter Moizer, allegedly had advisory links to Manchester Airport Group, then a bidder for Gatwick (which was eventually sold to Global Infrastructure Partners for £1.5 billion in October 2009). CAT ruled in BAA’s favour.

In a statement issued yesterday, the CC said: “We have decided to appeal against the CAT’s judgment on the grounds that the CAT was wrong to conclude that there was a connection between Professor Moizer and Manchester Airports Group giving rise to apparent bias. We will seek to have any appeal heard as soon as possible in view of the importance of this case.”

CAT is expected to announce within the next two weeks whether it will allow the latest appeal to go ahead.