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Arguments Surrounding The Growth And Ownership Of Stansted Airport

Aug 28, 2008
The fourth largest airport in the UK, Stansted in the sleepy district of Uttlesford, Essex and is currently undergoing an inquiry into its expansion plans and particularly the proposed building of a second runway. This is just the last stage in the development of a site that has gone from a field near the town of Stansted Mountfitchet, to a modern, major airport with a host of auxiliary services such as shops, hotels, restaurants and car hire desks. Predominantly the flights that leave Stansted are run by budget airlines, flying to many destinations across Europe as well as further afield. In terms of passenger numbers, Stansted annually handles around twenty million annually. While this figure is large, consider that the busiest airport in the UK, Heathrow handles around seventy million. As such, Stansted must expand in order to compete.

Currently the owner of Stansted Airport, BAA is experiencing political pressure to sell the site. The British Airport Authority, owns seven airports within the UK, these seven however are nearly all of the major airports and hence the company, and its Spanish owners, the Ferrovial Group have been accused of monopolistic tendencies. A recent commission held to discuss the state of BAA and its domination of air travel in the UK came to the conclusion that BAA should sell three of their sites. The competition issues led the commission into making this recommendation, arguing for a better service for passengers, not just in air travel but in terms of the shops, restaurants and car hire desks, greater choice is needed.

Due to the fact that practically all of the major airports within the UK are owned by one company; competition for prices and services is non existent. Subsequently this is poor for the consumer, restricting their choices. It would probably not be a problem apart from the fact that a large number of complaints have reached the commission, highlighting the poor service offered by BAA. Of the three suggested for sale, the commission wants two of the London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to be sold. In addition an airport like Edinburgh will have to be sold as well. As Heathrow is such a money spinner with so many accompanying services such as shops, cafes and car hire provision, it is likely that Stansted and Gatwick will be sold.

But what will this do for the proposed expansion plans of the Stansted site? At the moment a large amount of resistance is being put up against BAA by local residents claiming that the second runway rides roughshod over the environment and local communities. If the sale goes however, the expansion could be put into jeopardy. While the commission argues that having competition may actually increase the chance for expansion, BAA is not so sure; they think their ownership is crucial in enlarging the capacity of the Stansted site.

Today Stansted has developed from a military airfield that was extensively used during the Second World War for sorties over the continent to one of the most advanced airports in the UK. Despite the lack of intercontinental flights it is still a popular airport with a large number of passengers due to the fact so many budget airlines use the site. The accompanying services also make it a popular airport for rail travel into the capital and travel further afield with the use of car hire utilities. Whatever the arguments surrounding the expansion and ownership of the site it is likely that growth will continue at Stansted, the result being a highly developed airport servicing London and beyond.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks at why car hire Stansted airport services are likely to be important to the site's development.
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