Can BAA afford to expand?

Dustbowl Heathrow

Could it be that despite the Government's determination to expand Heathrow - regardless of the cost to communities and the climate - that beleagured BAA can't actually afford to build an new tea-shop, let alone a third runway?

International finance analysts Bloomberg noted in response to the 'consultation' that BAA's credit rating was recently down-graded to 'junk' status - i.e. you wouldn't want to lend them a fifty pence for a cup of coffee. Put simply, BAA is broke.

You say consultation. We say sham!

Tin of Sham

At a packed meeting yesterday afternoon the combined forces of the anti-Heathrow expansion movement heard something they'd always suspected. The consultation, due out today, will be a sham. The Government has made its mind up; like it or not, Heathow expansion is going ahead.

We had gathered to meet with Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, in a final face-to-face before the launch of the latest consultation on the third runway. Plane Stupid, of course, was not invited, but I snuck in to hear just what Fitzpatrick (coincidentally also Environment Minister for the Department for Transport) had to say.

Flights of fancy

Call me a cynic, but I'm willing to bet the upcoming consultations on expanding Heathrow airport don't halt the government's madcap plans to lay tarmac all over west London. It's not that I don't trust the public to make the "right" decision; more that whenever the aviation industry asks the questions it gets the result it wanted, even if it contradicts every other survey.

Pro-expansion lobby group Future Heathrow recently published a Populus survey which shows surprising support for Heathrow expansion. They polled 1,000 residents from the west London boroughs that comprise the 2M group, and discovered 56% supported ending runway alternation (switching the runway used for take-offs at 3pm, to give locals respite from aircraft noise). This contradicted last year's ICM poll by the Mayor of London, which found only 26% supported ending alternation. Begging the question: why did the industry survey get the results it did?

Blair spin doctor joins BAA


Struggling BAA has hired Blair's former spin doctor Tom Kelly in an effort to halt an ever-growing tide of bad publicity. Kelly is notorious for slandering weapons expert David Kelly, who he called a "Walter Mitty" character just days after his suicide.

BAA is facing a difficult winter - with a Transport Select Committee inquiry into it's future, an assault by the Civil Aviation Authority on its landing fee charges and a Competition Commission investigation into its monopoly on airports in the South-East - and hopes the ex-Downing Street adviser's contacts will help them escape unscathed.

Good to see the revolving door just keeps on spinning...

Did T5 story tumble BAA and Ferrovial share price?

Following today's Times article about our efforts to help BAA find volunteers to test T5, the Spanish version of the Economist has reported a drop in share prices of Ferrovial (down 1.31%) and BAA (down 0.27%).

The two are almost certainly not linked, but it did make us chuckle...

Flybe's poisoned planes lead back to BAA

Not content with holding up passengers while they send their security off to hold fake demos in favour of Stansted expansion, BAA have got caught up in a poisoning scandal after cabin crew at Flybe collapsed mid-flight.

Pilots and cabin crew for budget airline Flybe are refusing to fly on BAe 146s following an incident in which crew had to be taken to hospital after inhaling engine fumes which leaked into the cabin.

Stansted inquiry draws to a close

After five months, the inquiry into making maximum use of Stansted's runway has drawn to a close. The inspector's decision is expected before Christmas.

Stop Stansted Expansion described BAA's attempts to justify expanding from 25 million to 35 million passengers per year as "wholly unconvincing", and pointed out that following a dismal inquiry, BAA are now expected to announce that the consultation into the second runway is to be postponed.

The application to expand usage of the existing runway was rejected by Uttlesford Council last year, in what is believed to be the first application to be dismissed on climate change grounds.

BAA doesn't see the funny side


What's an airport management company got to do to get a break around here? After a not-so-great summer, it's no wonder that the company decided to relax at its senior management conference with a little light aviation-related humour.

Unfortunately the event fell rather flat when comedian Pam Ann began her performance. Turns out “jokes about terrorism and lewd comments about duty-free lipsticks and bottles of booze” weren't exactly what Chief Executive Stephen Nelson had in mind...

BAA - another one bites the dust

Will the last one to leave BAA please turn out the lights? Just over five weeks after joining, BAA's troubleshooter - remit: "to put passengers’ interests first" - has left the company.

It's almost getting too easy to mock the struggling airport operator at the moment. They're already under investigation for being so broke that the Competition Commission is concerned that their finances will impact upon passengers and airlines.

Since June, Tony Douglas has stepping down as chief executive of Heathrow, Mike Clasper stepped down as chief executive along with Marcus Agius, the chairman, Margaret Ewing, finance director, and Tony Ward, who was in charge of security.

DfT / aviation industry meetings

A Freedom of Information request published in July 2007 reveals just how close BAA and the DfT have become over the years.

Between July 2002 and April 2007, BAA met with the DfT no less than 117 times, including 24 meetings with the Secretary of State and at least 33 meetings with the Head of Airports Policy, Jonathan Sharrock.

All in all, the DfT met with airlines and airport operators 342 times between 2002 and April 2007. Unfortunately the FOI request doesn't tell us how many times the environment came up - but I'm willing to bet it wasn't a top priority.