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Stansted airport faces fines for bad service

[December 10th 2008]

Stansted airport could be fined for poor service to customers and airlines following new proposals from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Heathrow and Gatwick airports, both like Stansted currently owned by BAA, are already fined for failing to meet service standards. BAA was fined £4.3 million at Heathrow and £3.6 million at Gatwick in the first seven months of 2008/09 for falling short of acceptable standards.

The new service incentive scheme at Stansted would cover areas including security queues, baggage reclaim, flight information, seating and cleanliness, and services to airlines such as piers and power supplies.

The CAA has also proposed price caps at Stansted for the next five years. These are £6.34 per passenger for the first two years, rising to £6.65 by 2013/14.

“Our proposed price controls protect passengers and airlines whilst maintaining good levels of service. They also look to the long-term potential expansion of airports,” explains CAA group director of economic regulation, Harry Bush.

The price cap proposals for Stansted have been broadly welcomed by airlines, although there are still strong calls for BAA’s airports monopoly to be broken up.

Low cost airline Ryanair said it “welcomed the decision by the CAA to adopt the Competition Commission’s recommendations regarding penalties for the abysmal service quality at Stansted, as graphically highlighted by the serious security breach at Stansted on Monday and the unacceptable security queues over the past two years”.

“However, the prices announced by the CAA today are still out of line with what efficient airports are now offering throughout Europe and only competition between the three main London airports will achieve better services and competitive prices,” comments Ryanair director of legal and regulatory affairs, Jim Callaghan.

Rival budget airline easyJet said it is “very concerned by the CAA’s apparent long-term plan to remove all price caps at Stansted and give BAA free reign to charge what it wants”.

easyJet believes Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are “all local monopolies” whether they are owned collectively or separately. “It is much more important that the DfT’s ongoing review of airport regulation puts the interests of the travelling public above the interests of the airport owner and that the sale process for Gatwick airport does not merely replace one highly-indebted owner with another,” concludes easyJet.

Written by: Nick Purdom