Just call me Heathrow

The British Airports Authority, better known by its three-letter acronym, BAA, is no more.

Ferrovial, the Spanish developer which owns most of it, announced in October that the BAA brand name is to be consigned to the pages of history. Henceforth, the company is to be known as Heathrow. Chief executive Colin Matthews explained the reasoning behind the firm’s decision:

“The BAA name no longer fits. We do not represent all British airports; we are not a public authority; and practically speaking the company is no longer a group as Heathrow will account for more than 95 percent of the business,” Matthews said.

If you detect a little stand-offishness in Matthews’ statement, you may be right. After all, the former BAA, for which Ferrovial paid top-dollar (or rather pound) in 2006, was progressively dismantled shortly afterwards by the Competition Commission (CC), which forced it to sell Gatwick and Edinburgh airports and now Stansted too.

BAA fought bitterly against the sales – which one of its lawyers flamboyantly described as “the biggest expropriation in the UK since the Anglican Reform” – and particularly bitterly against the sale of Stansted, which it tried to have overruled no fewer than seven times. But court after court told the company now known as Heathrow to put its assets on the auction block.

By renaming itself as Heathrow, the former BAA is effectively telling the CC that, while the watchdog may share Henry VIII’s* taste for mutilation, the airports operator is dead serious about keeping its head attached. It does not ever intend to become the company formerly known as Heathrow.

We just hope the new moniker doesn’t mean Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports will stop having their runways cleaned. After all, they’re part of the business too – though you wouldn’t know it from the name.  

*In case you need to brush up on your history, Henry VIII was the father of the Anglican Reform, which expropriated the Catholic Church’s assets. He has, however, become rather more notorious for beheading two of the six wives he married.