OFT begins UK airport probe


An investigation has been launched into whether the UK airports market is giving consumers the best possible deal, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has confirmed.

The OFT had revealed earlier this month that it was considering looking into whether the market was in breach of anti-competition laws in light of Spanish construction firm Ferrovial's recent £10.3 billion takeover of BAA.

The watchdog claims that two-thirds of UK passengers begin or end their journey in one of BAA's airports, which include London hubs Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, as well as Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.

A spokesman for the organisation said that the decision to proceed with the mooted investigation "reflects the importance of airports to consumers and businesses within the UK".

If the investigation finds BAA or other airport regulators in breach of consumer or competition laws then legal action could be taken against the companies involved and a separate Competition Commission report could also be launched.

John Fingleton, the OFT chief executive, said: "Greater competition between airlines over the past decade has led to wider choice for air travellers and lower fares.

"We now think it is time to explore the potential for greater competition within the airport industry as this could ultimately yield significant benefits in terms of timely and adequate investment in UK airports, a better value service to the UK travelling public as well as potentially relieving the industry - and ultimately its customers - of the costs of regulation that may be disproportionate," he added.

BAA, which previously said it will support the OFT in its investigation when the possibility of the probe was first announced, posted improved profits of £660 million for the last financial year.

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