Officials at the United Kingdom Competition Commission have confirmed BAA will be forced to bring forward the sale of either Edinburgh or Glasgow Airport.
The CC confirmed in July its original decision of March 2009 that Stansted Airport and one of either Glasgow and Edinburgh airports should be sold, rejecting the contention there had been a material change of circumstance since that time.
The delay had been caused by BAA’s subsequent appeals.
The CC had also confirmed in July that Stansted should be sold first.
Subsequently, however, BAA has appealed that decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT).
In view of the real risk of delay arising as a result of this second appeal and also given the fact that BAA is not challenging the Scottish airport sale, the CC has now decided that it would be in the interests of affected passengers and airlines to proceed with the sale of either Glasgow or Edinburgh Airport first.
The CC will therefore now consult on legal undertakings setting out the revised process and expects the sale process to begin shortly, following a decision from BAA over which of the two Scottish airports it wishes to sell.
Chairman of the BAA Remedies Implementation Group and a member of the original Inquiry Group which reported in 2009, Laura Carstensen, said: “We feel this is the best approach in view of the further delay caused to the Stansted sale by this second appeal.
“It is frustrating that we cannot proceed with the Stansted disposal until this new challenge from BAA has been dealt with but in the meantime we will press ahead with the Scottish sale and as a result passengers and airlines in Scotland will enjoy the benefits of greater competition even sooner than they would have done otherwise.
“We have concluded that there is no reason why they should have to wait for the end of this new attempt by BAA to delay the implementation of our remedies, particularly as the sale has already been delayed by the original legal proceedings in 2009.
“We look forward to starting the sales process very shortly. In addition, we expect that the change will cause no substantial delay to the Stansted sale beyond that which would probably have arisen anyway, given the likely timescale for dealing with BAA’s appeal.”
The change also means that the Stansted sales process will not be affected by the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.
“Our decision provides certainty that will enable the Scottish airport sale to be proceeded with now, without being at risk of delay from the litigation,” concluded Ms Carstensen.