Non-BAA owned airports are looking for a lighter regulatory touch from the government following the snow that brought chaos to many travellers before Christmas.

Responding in the Times to a suggestion that the poor performance of some airports, in particular Heathrow, should prompt greater regulatory powers, a Gatwick spokesman said:

“In a competitive marketplace where Gatwick is working closely with its airlines and partners to drive higher service standards we expect less regulation – not more.

“The real answer is not more bureaucracy and regulation. It is to break BAA up and introduce more competition and, in the longer term, build more capacity for greater resilience and to further enhance competition.”

Manchester Airport questioned the need for general regulation on the basis of two London airports failing to cope with the recent wintry weather.

The government has announced plans to introduce fines for airports that fail in their duty of care for passengers.

Heathrow endured days of disruption after a single snow fall a week before Christmas causing the cancellation of 2,000 flights as it struggled to keep its two runways open.

Gatwick was closed earlier in the month after snow in south east England but invested in more snow clearing equipment allowing it reopen quickly when snow returned two weeks later.

Current rules do not allow airports to be fined for unreasonable delays caused by weather.   Europe is also considering bringing in new rules after weather delays across much of the continent.