July 27, 2011 8:21 pm

Ryanair files complaints with regulators against BAA

Ryanair on Wednesday said it had filed complaints with regulators alleging that BAA had abused its monopoly position and overcharged airlines at Stansted airport.

The action takes place only days after Britain’s largest airport owner was told by the Competition Commission that it must begin selling off Stansted and one of its Scottish hubs. Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive, suggested Ryanair had raised its complaints to push through a sale at a lower price that would force a new operator to impose cheaper landing charges.

“Ryanair is a great customer of ours and we work hard to stay in agreement with them. But they have a clear interest in a sale. The lower the price, the better the chance that they will pay lower charges.”

Mr Matthews indicated yesterday that he may seek a judicial review in advance of the September 13 deadline. The sale has been successfully delayed before and a judicial review could stall the sale process until at least 2012 even if it were to be unsuccessful.

“We need to do more work on the detail but there is no reason to wait until the last minute,” Mr Matthews said.

Ryanair, which accounts for 70 per cent of the traffic at Stansted, said it had instructed lawyers to file a complaint against BAA with the Civil Aviation Authority and Competition Commission.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive, accused BAA of “screwing airlines” by raising prices from €3.30 per passenger to €6.60 per passenger during the past five years despite a 24 per cent fall in traffic over the period. Airlines including Ryanair and Air Berlin were being forced to cut routes and services as a result, he said.

“Any company that has suffered a 30 per cent decline in business over the past five years would respond by cutting its prices. Instead, BAA Stansted monopoly’s response has been to double its passenger charges, making Stansted Airport uncompetitive, but generating monopoly profits for the BAA.”

Ryanair’s complaint was made as BAA reported a narrowing of pre-tax losses from £167.4 in the first six months of 2010 to £116.9m in the same period this year. Passenger numbers at its airports increased 7.1 per cent to 41.4m, but the figures were flattered by the comparison with April 2010, when thousands of flights were grounded by the Iceland’s ash cloud.

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