BAA told to sell Stansted Airport

AIRPORT operator BAA has been told it must sell Stansted Airport after the Court of Appeal today (Thursday) dismissed the firm’s latest legal challenge.

The hearing was BAA’s fifth legal appeal in its long-running battle to hold onto the Uttlesford transport hub after it was told in 2009 by the Competition Commission that it must relinquish its monopoly of the UK aviation market.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said BAA had all but exhausted its legal options and had no choice but to invite bids of around �1.2billion for the UK’s fourth largest airport.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “We hope that with a new owner there will be an opportunity for constructive dialogue based on maximising the local benefits of the airport and minimising its adverse impacts.”

He speculated that potential buyers could include a range of global infrastructure funds as well as Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which currently owns airports at Bournemouth, East Midlands, Humberside and Manchester, and, reportedly, has long been keen to acquire an airport in the South East.

SSE said BAA’s main complaint at the start of the long-running legal battle had been that it was being forced to sell Stansted at the worst possible time in terms of the economic downturn.

But the group added that, ironically, it seemed now that it would have been far better for BAA to have promptly sold Stansted in 2009 since the airport now handles 15 per cent fewer passengers compared to three years ago.