Ryanair has applauded a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss BAA’s appeal against the Competition Commission’s ruling that it must offload Glasgow and Stansted airports.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary called for the “early disposal” of the two airports following today’s ruling.
BAA, which also owns Heathrow, may have to sell the two airports after the appeals court rejected its claim that the regulator’s review of the case was influenced by bias.
The Court of Appeal today overturned a lower court’s decision to block the forced sales because one of the watchdog’s advisers on the case was linked to a group that considered buying some of the company’s assets.
The lower court “was wrong to find apparent bias,” Judge Maurice Kay said in the ruling.
The airports operator argued in June that the Competition Commission may have had an “unconscious bias” when it called on BAA to sell Gatwick and Stansted and either the Glasgow or Edinburgh airports to increase competition in the market.
BAA sold Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partner for £1.51 billion in December.
It avoided selling the other two when the Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld its claim that the adviser at the centre of the dispute didn’t remove himself soon enough in the regulatory process. The regulator appealed that finding.
O’Leary said: “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling to dismiss the BAA’s appeal is a great result for competition, consumer choice and passengers.
“Ryanair has fought long and hard for the break-up of the high cost, inefficient BAA airport monopoly, and we welcome today’s ruling which vindicates the original findings of the Competition Commission.
“We hope that Ferrovial, the Spanish owners of the BAA airport monopoly, will now accept this Court of Appeal ruling and move quickly to sell Stansted and Glasgow airports, so that more competition and a better deal for consumers can be ushered in as soon as possible.
“Ryanair congratulates the Competition Commission on successfully overturning the BAA monopoly’s appeal, and we call again for the early disposal of Stansted and Glasgow airports, which will transform consumer choice, airport competition and will lower air fares for millions of passengers and visitors to the London and Scottish airports.”
BAA is to appeal to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal decision.
A spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the Court of Appeal has upheld two of the five grounds argued by the Competition Commission.
“We note the Court’s view that apparent bias in relation to a panel member existed during part of the Commission’s investigation and will study this judgement carefully.
“We will be seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.”
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