Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor

200809171537.jpgBA Chief Executive, Willie Walsh, set media tongues wagging last night after stating that the airline industry was in its deepest crisis since the age of mass air transport began.

Citing high oil prices, economic downturn and declining consumer confidence, Mr Walsh said that the entire industry was in trouble.

Hours after that grim assessment, BAA announced that it was putting Gatwick Airport up for sale.

Following the Competition Commission's enquiry into the ownership of UK airports (covered here), the sale of Gatwick was always on the cards, but the industry has been stunned by the sudden move by BAA, ahead as it is of the CC's full report being published.

This move offers the potential to inject some real competition into London's airports - with City, Heathrow and Gatwick with different owners there will be a genuine incentive to produce best practice and low prices, which will benefit both business and leisure travellers.

A full list of bidders has yet to be finalised, though the BBC offers the following as having cited an interest:

Potential bidders include Australian company Macquarie, Germany's Fraport, and the owners of Manchester airport.

Virgin Atlantic said it would also be interested in bidding as part of a consortium.

Our Transport Manifesto encouraged exactly this move. Decent management of an upgraded Heathrow, and new ownership of Gatwick offers a real opportunity for Londoners, and will provide the basis for the Mayor to determine the need for a new airport in the City's environs.