Possibility of extending Aberdeen airport runway due to BAA sale?

14.10.2010 (Press and Journal)

Fresh hope for plan to extend airport runway

forced sale would give cash injection for reinvestment, travel expert claims

Aberdeen Airport’s proposed runway extension has to be built before the gateway
can "step up and compete", according to a travel expert.

An order forcing operator BAA to sell one of its Scottish airports was brought
back into force yesterday, which aviation analyst Peter Smith said should provide
the funds for Aberdeen’s development plans.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal restored a Competition Commission (CC) ruling
that BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as either Glasgow or
Edinburgh.

BAA has already successfully appealed against the ruling once and is considering
launching another attempt to have the decision overturned after the Court of Appeal
restored the CC’s decision.

The operator had already decided to sell Gatwick for £1.5billion even before
the March 2009 sell-off ruling which had followed a lengthy inquiry into UK airport
ownership.

Last night, travel analyst Mr Smith, from www.travelsupermarket.com , said he expected any future BAA appeal to fail and Glasgow or Edinburgh to
be sold, meaning the Spanish-owned company would be left with a "huge cash injection"
for reinvestment.

A longer runway at Aberdeen has been stalled by the recession and continuing
economic uncertainty, but the airport’s new managing director, Derek Provan, said
the extension and the larger flights that would come with it are a top priority.

Mr Smith said it would be in BAA’s interests for the runway extension of nearly 1,000ft, which was given the all-clear by city councillors nearly four years ago, to
go ahead as soon as possible.

numbers

He said: "I would guess BAA will sell Glasgow, purely because of the drop in
passengers numbers it has seen in the last couple of years. They will then be
hoping Aberdeen can step up and compete alongside Edinburgh against whoever takes
on Glasgow.

"In their initial plans for the extension they were talking about doubling their
passenger numbers, and that is what they need for Aberdeen to be any kind of competition."

A spokesman for BAA, which also owns Heathrow and Southampton, said the company
was "disappointed" by the Court of Appeal’s decision.

He said it was too soon to judge what it would mean for Aberdeen’s extension,
adding: "We have a lot of time now to work out our options and what impact this
will have on all of our other airports."

A Competition Commission spokesman said: "We are pleased that the Court of Appeal
has found in our favour in the BAA case.

"Our intention now is to work with BAA to implement these measures in the interests
of the travelling public."

Government spending cuts could affect the number of passengers using airports
in the Highlands and islands, a leading air industry figure warned yesterday.

Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial), believes
the impact of the spending review and the VAT increase in January is likely to
affect business at its 11 airports.

He said: "Business traffic is slowly returning to last year’s levels and we expect
that to be the case for the remaining quarter but beyond January 2011 it is however
far more difficult to predict given the likely impact of the forthcoming spending
cuts."

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