Heathrow and Stansted expansion even less likely as BAA posts record losses

Have you been wondering why BAA has gone quiet on its plans to expand Heathrow and Stansted? Just a few months ago it was keen to stress that both airports would have new runways as soon as the tarmac could be poured, but their latest financial reports shows that BAA is so broke that it is reusing teabags* in the staff canteen.

So far this year BAA has lost over half a billion pounds from the three London airports, with passengers down by 4 million. The biggest decline was at Stansted, which lost 14% of passengers. Domestic flights fell 10% across the airports, with flights to the EU down 8% and international flights down 6%. So what need for the new runway - or for the increase in passenger numbers they twisted arms for last year?

In other BAA news, Gatwick still hasn't sold. BAA wants £1.5 billion, down from £2 billion last year, and has challenged the Competition Commission's demand that it sell Stansted, Gatwick and either Edinburgh or Glasgow within two years. There's some complicated leveraging thing going on with bonds and stuff, but basically it's overvalued the airport and can't sell it.

No cash means no expansion, whatever spin BAA chooses to put on it: bulldozing villages doesn't come cheap, especially when we're digging in to resist. It's perhaps a little too early to start celebrating, but let's face it: we've won**, even if the other side hasn't conceded defeat just yet.

* I am reliabily informed that reusing teabags is a perfectly sensible thing to do. However the image of BAA's staff fighting over a second-hand Tetley while outside the offices hordes of angry residents and anti-expansion campaigners wave placards and chant slogans is so heartening that I thought I'd share it with you.

** Given that I've started doing these little notes, I may as well continue: there plenty of regional airport battles to fight and win, but passengers and profits are down across the sector. Perhaps that iconic symbol of the fight against climate change won't be in Sipson and Harmonsworth, but at Newquay, Doncaster or Birmingham airports instead...