Scottish Airports Face Sell-Off over Monopoly Claim

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Byline: RAY MASSEY

SCOTLAND'S biggest airports operator could be broken up following claims its near-monopoly gives passengers a raw deal.

Consumer watchdogs are considering forcing BAA to sell off some of its key airports, such as Glasgow or Edinburgh, in a bid to boost competition.

The move follows complaints that BAA airport passengers face expensive, overcrowded terminals with too little seating, broken lifts and escalators and leaking roofs.

The Office of Fair Trading sparked fears of a break-up when it announced plans to refer BAA to the Competition Commission.

OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: 'There is evidence of poor quality and high charges - BAA's investment plans, which are of great importance to the UK, have raised significant concerns among its customers.

'There are signs of a market not working well for consumers and we believe that a full inquiry into BAA's structure is justified.' BAA - which has just been bought by Spanish company Ferrovial - owns Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports as well as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Southampton.

Watchdogs said the firm's stranglehold 'leads to higher charges than would be the case if the airports were owned by separate firms.

'These raise costs to air travellers with consequential effects on business and tourism.' The OFT found BAA's Scottish airports, which carry more than 80 per cent of the country's air passengers, were not priceregulated and charges faced by airlines were higher than at Gatwick and Stansted.

BAA' s ownership of both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports also allegedly 'restricts, prevents or distorts competition'.

The OFT noted that Glasgow, which faces some competition from nearby Prestwick airport, had seen the largest price decreases of BAA's airports in Scotland.

Glasgow has 8.8million passengers a year - 37 per cent of all Scotland's passengers - while Edinburgh's 8.4million accounts for 36 per cent.

Aberdeen's 2.9million a year make up 11 per cent.

Independent airport Prestwick, meanwhile, has 2. …