BAA sells Gatwick. So what?

BAA has been forced to sell Gatwick airport because of the so-called monopoly of BAA over London's main airports. All right, I'll tell you a secret (only if you promise not to tell anyone else): I don't think that's going to change anything.

The monopoly term doesn't mean anything to airport customers, unless you make an effort and try to imagine the Monopoly London special edition board game, being sold in a Hamley's duty free shop, surrounded by Paddington bears or something.

Are we now going to take the airport into account when buying plane tickets? Are we going to say things like: Oh, for my flight to Valencia I would love to fly from Gatwick, because it is now owned by Global Infrastructure Partners and paying them my airport taxes makes me feel great? For sure we are not. We'll say something more like: I would love to fly with no stops, for a reasonable fare, and I would also like to be able to get to the airport easily and go through the queues in a whiz.

That clearly shows that the owner of an airport doesn't affect people's choice as much as geographical situation and flights availability and/or pricing. For example, getting to Stansted is a pain for me. As a consequence, I always try to avoid flying from there. If BAA had sold Stansted to GIP, would I use Stansted now? You guess it: no, I would not. On the other hand, if the only way to get to destination X is flying from airport Y, customers have no choice but to use that route. Is that a monopoly too? Or is it more of an offer and demand issue?

Operators also manage retail space in the airports. BAA is famously known for having provided more retail space than check-in and security space in Heathrow, and so the queues were huge and forced people to stay more time in the airport than what was in theory needed, but can anyone seriously believe that any other operator would not have tried to maximize its benefits as well? Specially if you bear in mind that many times customers have no other option but to fly via a certain airport, as I pointed out above.

The only way I can really imagine people are going to start considering the airport operator factor when buying a ticket is if the airport charges begin to greatly vary amongst differently owned airports (for example, if BAA airports begin charging double the amount compared to GIP airports). But as far as I know, these taxes are regulated and capped by an civil organisation, and can't be arbitrarily increased by an operator out of its own will. So the only thing they can do is decrease them in order to make themselves more attractive to customers. And taking into account that for certain things we will always be in a recession/credit crunch/need, I don't think they are ever going to reduce anything :D

In short: yet again much ado about nothing!