BAA will begin the process of selling Gatwick Airport this week when it issues information to potential bidders and announces a timetable for the sale.

The airport operator earlier agreed to appoint auditors to monitor the sale and report to the Competition Commission.

BAA is selling Gatwick – the country’s leading charter airport – in anticipation of a Competition Commission report due by March which will order the sale of two of the operator’s three London airports and either Glasgow or Edinburgh. BAA operates Heathrow and Stansted as well as Gatwick.

The disposals have been touted as likely to reduce the charges to airlines and passengers by increasing competition. However, carriers using Gatwick expect charges to rise no matter who owns the airport.

Among those expected to bid are Manchester Airport Group and a consortium including the Virgin group. BAA expects the first bids in January and final bids to be submitted by late March.