Heathrow to sell Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports

Service improvements expected at all three airports

Passengers at Scottish airports can look forward to service improvements now that Heathrow is selling its holding in Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.

Heathrow to sell Glasgow could mean happier passengers
Heathrow to sell Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton could mean happier passengers

Significant improvements in the passenger experience have been achieved at all the airports that Heathrow (under its previous name of BAA) has sold – Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh.

The Scotsman newspaper says that experts believe customer service would improve when the Scottish airports are sold because they would be given more attention as part of a smaller company, with fewer layers of management.

One said: “This will be good news for passengers. It will take the airports out of the hands of a company which does not really care about them, and lead to a much greater focus on performance and competitiveness.”

The five-month target to sell the three airports is one month shorter than the time HAH, then known as BAA, took to sell Edinburgh Airport in 2012-13.

The newspaper says, “It would be impossible to sell three airports by the end of the year unless a buyer has been lined up.”

A spokeswoman from HAH said: “Over recent months Heathrow Airport Holdings group shareholders and management have been considering their strategic position in relation to our three airports, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton.

“As a result the group is now formally entering a sale process.

“Whilst there is currently no certainty that a sale will be concluded, the group intends to work towards completing a transaction by the end of the year.”

Previous selloffs

Heathrow Airport Holdings used to called BAA but dropped that name in 2012 asit was no longer fit for a foreign-owned company with no authority that has sold off half its airports. The BAA name was also somewhat tainted by a reputation for poor passenger service. Many people still refer to Heathrow as BAA.

BAA once ran seven UK airports, the current four plus Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports.

But concerns about BAA’s monopoly position and its performance at its airports led to an inquiry by the Competition Commission  which is now the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The Commission ruled that BAA had to sell Gatwick, Stansted and one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.

  • Gatwick was sold to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in 2009 for £1.5 billion.
  • Edinburgh was sold to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in 2012 for £807 million.
  • Stansted was sold to Manchester Airport Group in 2013 for £1.5 billion

Possible buyers

Spanish firm Ferrovial was reported to have made an £800 million offer to buy the airports in February. The company already has a 25 per cent stake in HAH, previously known as BAA.

A consortium led by Zurich Airport and the investment firm Partners Group, is also believed to have had an offer rejected.

Global Infrastructure Partners, the group which bought Edinburgh Airport and Gatwick and owns London City Airport could bid.

Manchester Airport Group, which owns Manchester Airport, London Stansted, Bournemouth and East Midlands or an overseas pension fund.