Airports operator BAA has announced that Gatwick Airport is on the market for an estimated £2bn.

The move follows a recommendation from the Competition Commission that BAA sell two of its three London airports.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Gatwick has long been an important and valuable part of BAA and the decision to sell was not taken lightly. We believe that the airport’s customers, staff and business will benefit from the earliest possible resolution of current uncertainty.”

Virgin Atlantic has said it would be interested in bidding for Gatwick as part of a consortium. Chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “We are already part of the consortium that owns NATS, the National Air Traffic Control operator, and this has been a successful ownership model in recent years.

“But Gatwick doesn’t just need a new owner. It needs a much tougher regulatory system which ensures any new owner doesn’t simply become BAA mark two.”

Other airlines welcomed the decision. Flybe chief commercial officer Mike Rutter said: “We have been saying for years that the BAA monopoly of airports in South East England is bad for everyone, not the least of which the travelling public.

“It is crucial that all the relevant regulatory bodies ensure that any new owner does not saddle itself with unsustainable debt in order to buy Gatwick. A sale should increase competition and bring about service improvements, not simply continue with more of the same.”