Airline Group warns over NATS privatisation

Airline Group warns over NATS privatisation

Airline Group has warned the government it must alter plans to privatise the National Air Traffic Control Service (NATS).

Composed of seven leading UK airlines - British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, BMI, easyJet, Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch Airlines – the group bought a stake in NATS during its part-privatisation in 2001.

Airline Group has warned it will consider selling its 42 per cent stake if the government carries out plans to sell its holding.

In a letter to Hammond, Airline Group chairman Peter Read warned: “It would be highly damaging if we were on the sidelines while others, notably France, Germany and Spain, decided the future of the air traffic control industry.”

“There is a real risk such an outcome would occur if the UK were the only country without a government shareholding in its national air traffic control.”

The airline fear the UK would lose a voice in discussions on a single air traffic system for Europe if the government retains no stake in NATS.

Any move to completely privatise the service would therefore be “highly damaging”.

The letter – which was seen by the Observer paper -: “The absence of a government stake would make it difficult to justify continued airline participation in the ownership of Nats.”

The group proposes the government retain at least a 25% stake in the system.

The government is due to announce its plans for privatising Nats in the Budget on March 23rd.