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UK flights soar 4.9 pct to record high in 2004

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Flights in Britain rose 4.9 percent to record levels in 2004 as low-cost airlines expanded and more people flew on cheap fares, UK air traffic control said Friday.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said it handled 2.18 million flights in UK airspace during the year as transatlantic and domestic flights increased, as well as flights to and from Europe.

Budget travel has buoyed short-haul traffic from Europe, while routes across the Atlantic Ocean have recovered from a downturn following 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

NATS said average delays per flight attributable to air traffic control fell to 25 seconds in the period from 44 seconds in 2003 and 97.5 percent of flights had no delays.

"Despite record numbers of flights, NATS delivered its best performance in 2004 on record," NATS Chief Executive Paul Barron said in a statement.

NATS hopes to cut flight delays and safety incidents by 2007 to help restore confidence in the organisation which was hit by a financial crisis after a slump in transatlantic air travel after 2001.

The partly privatised body is implementing a 1 billion pound ($1.88 billion) investment plan to modernise Britain's air-traffic control system before European Union plans to form a single network of air-traffic control zones.

NATS earns the bulk of its revenues from transatlantic flights.

Transatlantic arrivals and departures rose 7.4 percent in 2004, domestic rose 4.4 percent and other arrival and departures rose 7.5 percent.

The strongest growth areas were in Scottish air space, where flights increased 7.9 percent, and Manchester with growth of 6.9 percent.

NATS is 49 percent owned by the British government, 42 percent by a consortium of UK airlines, 4 percent by airports operator BAA Plc and 5 percent by NATS staff.

National Air Traffic: 2.18M Flights Used UK Airspace
7 January 2005

LONDON (Dow Jones)--National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the UK air traffic management provider, said Friday that in December 2004, it handled 165,045 flights, an increase of 5.3% over the same period in 2003.

Figures show that in 2004 NATS handled more flights than ever with fewer delays.

A total of 2,180,206 flights used U.K. airspace in 2004, a new annual record and an increase of 4.9% on 2003.

Despite rising traffic levels, service delivery showed significant improvement, with the average delay, per flight, attributable to NATS in 2004, falling to 25 seconds, compared to 44 seconds in 2003, a reduction of 43%.

The number of flights that experienced delays attributable to NATS fell markedly. In 2004, 97.5% of flights experienced no air traffic control delay, up from 95.2% in 2003.

The London Area Control Centre (LACC) at Swanwick, Hampshire, which handled over 1.7 million flights through 200,000 square miles of airspace above England and Wales, recorded its best performance ever in the latter part of 2004.

For a period of 24 consecutive days, between Nov. 27 and Dec. 20, there were no delays to flights attributable to Swanwick and of the 133,000 flights handled in December, only 36 received a delay attributable to the centre.
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BAA to lift cash out of 'non-core' assets
14 January 2005
The Daily Telegraph

By Alistair Osborne BAA revealed last night that it was in advanced talks to form a property joint venture which could raise hundreds of millions of pounds for the airports operator. The owner of seven UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, said: "Discussions are under way and due diligence has commenced with a view to forming a 50:50 joint venture with an external investor to hold certain of BAA's non-core aeronautical properties." The company would not disclose the identity of the investor, believed to be a financial institution or property fund. BAA owns various properties, deemed non-core, including airport hotels, car parks, offices and buildings leased to airlines, such as the Compass centre at Heathrow, occupied by British Airways. "The actual properties to be included in the joint venture are still being considered," BAA said. They would not include its retail operations.

If the transaction goes ahead, BAA, which has pounds 3.2 billion net debts, could inject properties into the joint venture and take out cash. This would help it finance an pounds 8billion capital expenditure programme over the next 10 years. The programme includes the pounds 4.2 billion Terminal 5 at Heathrow but not new runways, such as the mooted pounds 4billion second runway at Stansted. At the latest annual accounts, BAA had pounds 9.3 billion of fixed assets.
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BAA plans pounds 800m property fund to pay for expansion
By Edward Simpkins
30 January 2005
The Sunday Telegraph

BAA, the owner of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, is in talks with Scottish Widows, the insurer, about setting up an pounds 800m fund to hold part of its huge property portfolio. Under the deal, known as Project Devon, BAA and Widows would inject substantial borrowings into the joint venture, allowing the airport operator to release hundreds of millions of pounds which could be used to fund extensive expansion programmes. According to BAA's accounts to the end of March 2004, the group had investment property on its books worth pounds 2.97bn. However, this figure does not include the pounds 6bn of operational property such as airport terminals used in the running of its business. Much of BAA's property is in or around the major London airports and tends to attract a premium value. On Friday BAA reported that its profits for the first three quarters of its financial year had increased by 18 per cent to pounds 521m.

The company remains on target to make a pre-tax profit of pounds 604m for the full year. However, BAA is spending pounds 4.2bn on Terminal Five at Heathrow and is planning to spend a similar amount on expanding Stansted.
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BAA PLC reports 6.5 percent passenger increase at key British airports
28 January 2005

LONDON (AP) - Major British airports reported a 6.5 percent increase in passenger numbers in the nine months ending in December compared with a year earlier, airports owner BAA PLC said Friday.

The company, which operates London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, also reported after-tax profits on ordinary activities of 368 million pounds (US$695 million; euro533.55 million), up 21 percent from 304 million pounds in the previous year.

In addition to the London terminals, BAA operates airports serving Southend, England, and the Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Stansted's new runway comes to a standstill
Ben Webster
31 January 2005
The Times

While BAA struggles to find Pounds 2bn for its expansion plans, home prices continue to be blighted, writes Ben Webster

Thousands of home-owners around Stansted airport face another decade of uncertainty because of a likely delay to the development of a new runway.

The Essex airport was supposed to gain a second runway by 2012 under a timetable published a year ago in the Government's aviation White Paper.

But BAA, the airport's owner, is struggling to find the Pounds 2 billion it needs for the first phase of the expansion, in which would Stansted grow to be larger than Heathrow is today.

The delay raises the possibility that Heathrow could be expanded first, with a third runway north of the existing two.

Stansted had been enjoying runaway growth on the back of the boom in low-cost air travel. But the airport's passenger growth rate halved last year, suggesting that the market for low-cost air travel in the South East is close to being saturated.

Ryanair, which accounts for 60 per cent of flights at Stan-sted, has been unable to sell thousands of "free flights", for which it asks passengers to pay only taxes and charges.

BAA admits that it will struggle to pay for the new runway unless it is allowed to cross-subsidise it from its profits at Gatwick and Heathrow. But the Civil Aviation Authority has said that Stansted's expansion should be funded by its own passengers unless there were compelling reasons for a cross-subsidy.

Senior BAA staff have conceded privately that Stansted's new runway could be delayed until 2015 or even later.

More than 12,000 homes have been blighted by the proposed expansion. They fall outside the area in which BAA is promising to compensate residents. Their owners may be able to recover some losses, estimated at an average of Pounds 100,000 per property, under the Land Compensation Act. But the Act would apply only after the runway had opened.

David and Kay Johnson live about 100 yards outside the zone eligible for compensation from BAA. Their 15th-century converted barn is on the edge of the flight path for the proposed new runway and a new link road to the M11 would be built on fields close to their home. They paid Pounds 565,000 for their listed home three years ago and believe it should now be worth Pounds 750,000.

But Mr Johnson, 60, a retired loss adjuster, said: "We would be lucky to get Pounds 500,000 now. The uncertainty is the worst thing. Part of me wishes they would build the runway but BAA wants to keep its options open and leave the threat hanging over us. We could be fighting this for another ten years."

An internal Department for Transport paper, seen by The Times, states: "It would be difficult to fund an additional runway at Stansted opening in 2012, followed by an additional Heathrow runway opening soon after, say 2015."

But the White Paper proposed that a Heathrow runway could be built as early as 2015. An enlarged Heathrow, combined with the expansion of Luton, Birmingham and smaller airports, could mean that a second runway at Stansted is not needed. The existing runway handled 21 million passengers last year but is capable of handling more than 40 million.

British Airways is arguing for a new runway at Heathrow as early as possible and has threatened legal action if BAA tries to make Heathrow passengers pay for Stansted's expansion.

Terry Morgan, the managing director of Stansted, said that it was too early to say whether BAA would be able to pay for the early expansion of Stansted without a cross-subsidy.
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UK Air Traffic Glitch Delays Some Flights
17 February 2005

LONDON (AP)--An air traffic control glitch caused some flight delays in Britain on Wednesday.

National Air Traffic Services said it had discovered the problem in its West Drayton flight processing center at 6:30 p.m. local time (1830 GMT) Tuesday and fixed it by 7:03 p.m. (1903 GMT). It said it didn't know the cause of the trouble.

Controllers temporarily restricted the number of aircraft entering U.K. air space and taking off from U.K. airports.

The service said safety hadn't been compromised, but it regretted inconvenience caused to travelers.

A Heathrow Airport spokesman said there could still be some delays of about an hour, but the backlog should be eliminated quickly.
Court ruling on UK government's airport policy welcomed by BAA
18 February 2005
Airline Industry Information

British airports operator BAA plc said on 18 February that it welcomed a High Court ruling on the UK government's airport development policy for southeast England.

The judicial review supported the government's White Paper on Air Transport and plans for a new runway at London's Stansted Airport, while rejecting certain challenges to the policy of seeking ways to make best use of the capacity of Heathrow, BAA said.

The court also stated however that people living near Stansted must have a say over the precise location and land used for the runway.

BAA said that the judgement would allow it to "press ahead with exploring ways to achieve better use of Heathrow's existing two runways, planning a new runway at Stansted, and examining the feasibility of a third runway at Heathrow."
Runway ruling to delay Stansted expansion
Andrew Clark - Transport correspondent
19 February 2005
The Guardian

The government's plans to turn Stansted airport into one of Europe's biggest international hubs face a potentially lengthy delay following a high court judgment that ministers acted illegally in prescribing the location of a new runway.

Mr Justice Sullivan ruled yesterday that the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, had short-circuited the planning process by publishing a map showing the precise position of an extra landing strip at the Essex airport.

To the relief of the government, the judge stopped short of entirely throwing out Mr Darling's policy on aviation, refusing to support a claim that the commercial viability of new runways was flawed.

The ruling is the first time a white paper has fallen foul of a judicial review. It left the government with the embarrassing prospect of paying a six-figure sum for the legal costs of Essex's Conservative-controlled county council. The judge also criticised a senior government official for failing to tell "the whole truth".

Stansted is central to the government's policy of expanding airports to cater for the appetite for cheap flights. Mr Darling announced in Decem ber 2003 that the airport's capacity was to go from 25 million passengers annually to a maximum 82 million by 2030.

The judgment is likely to mean that a new runway will undergo scrutiny at a planning inquiry, of a length and at a level of detail Mr Darling was keen to avoid. It will hearten campaigners at other airports including Heathrow, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Essex county council's leader, Lord Hanningfield, said it could push back the opening date of a new landing strip at Stansted from 2012 to 2016.

"The government has got to go right back to the drawing board. They will have to think again on whether Stansted is the best site in the south-east for a new runway," he said.

The judge also ruled that Mr Darling over-reached his powers by giving the green light for an expanded runway at Luton without consulting local people.

Government officials insisted that the defeats, on two out of four challenges, would make little difference.

Speaking on Radio 4's World at One programme, Mr Darling said he accepted that the "exact position" of a runway should be "a matter for a local inquiry".

"What we were trying to do in the white paper is to set out a strategic direction for air transport over the next 30 years. The judge was specifically asked to quash that; he rejected it, as indeed he rejected the arguments against expansion at Heathrow."

One of Mr Darling's officials, Mike Fawcett, was criticised for his reluctance to reveal grave doubts at the Treasury.

Mr Justice Sullivan said government officials "should remember that their obligation to tell the truth to the court does not mean that the court need only be told so much of the truth as suits the department's case, and that inconvenient parts of the truth may be omitted from their evidence".
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Treasury doubts over Stansted runway
Michael Harrison
23 February 2005
The Independent

SERIOUS DOUBTS about the financeability of a second runway at Stansted airport have been raised in Treasury papers released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The papers, submitted in confidence to a High Court hearing last year, reveal the Treasury is "concerned about the potential for serious delay" to the new runway unless it is cross-subsidised by the users of London"s other two main airports, Heathrow and Gatwick.

If the runway is built on a "stand-alone" basis and funded only by airlines using Stansted, which is currently the Government"s preferred option, then peak-time passenger charges might have to increase almost fivefold to £16 per flight, the documents add. The Treasury believes this could result in a "high degree of revenue risk" because the owner of Stansted, BAA, might not be able to force the low-cost airlines who predominantly use the airport to pay such a big increase.

According to the documents, there was agreement between the Treasury, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority that the new runway could be built in time to open in 2011-12 provided there was a "system approach" to financing, using the pooled revenues from all three London airports. "There is collective agreement between DfT, HMT and CAA that we cannot state categorically that a new runway at Stansted is not financeable on a stand-alone basis but due to the higher degree of revenue risk, BAA could choose to delay the development to allow the financing situation to improve," the document says.

Ryanair, the biggest operator at Stansted, is already leading a high- profile campaign against the cost of the new runway, arguing it could be built for a tenth of the price quoted by BAA.

But BAA will face an equally big outcry from airlines based at other airports if it tries to cross-subsidise Stansted from landing charges paid by passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick.

The Treasury documents are based on a construction cost for the new runway of £2.6bn. BAA"s latest cost estimate is between £1.7bn and £2bn, which is says would be enough to pay for the second runway, additional terminal facilities and new road and rail links into the airport.
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Snow disrupts flights at Heathrow
28 February 2005
Airline Industry Information

Heavy snow forced British Airways to cancel 54 flights from London's Heathrow Airport on Friday morning (25 February).

Short-haul flights to destinations including Manchester, Edinburgh, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Zurich and Geneva had to be cancelled, said an airline spokesperson.

The weather conditions improved later and no further cancellations were expected.
Black ice and more snow bring chaos, but a thaw is on horizon
Liz Chong
5 March 2005
The Times

SUB-ZERO temperatures, heavy snowfalls and power failures made thousands of people across the country stay at home yesterday.

Airports had to cancel and delay flights because of snow-blanketed runways and motorists encountered traffic chaos as major roads were closed by police.

Temperatures dropped as low as -8.5C (16F) in Redhill, Surrey, and areas of Kent experienced their thirteenth consecutive day of snow. London was among the hardest hit.

Forecasters gave warning of more snow during the weekend before a thaw early next week.

Schools across the country stayed closed yesterday and many parents joined their children at home to avoid the treacherous commute to work.The poor driving conditions claimed the life of a 19-year-old man early on Thursday morning after an accident on the M2.

Police are also investigating the death of Shelley Whitfield, 21, who is believed to have frozen to death as she walked home in Co Durham on Tuesday night. Her body was discovered in a snow-covered field. A care assistant in her fifties is seriously ill in a Dorset hospital after she was overcome by hypothermia on Wednesday evening. She lay on a common for 18 hours before being discovered.

British Airways cancelled 44 flights at Heathrow and other European airports yesterday, while Luton and Stansted airports closed in the morning as runways were cleared of snow and aircraft de-iced. Motorists in Kent encountered black ice on roads and stretches of the M20 were closed to allow lorries to queue for Channel crossings. Cars were diverted on to the A20.

A Network Rail spokesman said no lines had been closed but added that services were running slower, especially in the South East and East Anglia.

In Kent, where snowstorms in the past two days have left some areas under 8in (20cm) of snow and some villages without electricity, pupils started returning to school.

The Met Office is predicting that the country will return to more familiar rainy weather next week.
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BAA Feb Traffic Up 0.8% On Yr
09 March 2005
Edited Press Release

LONDON (Dow Jones)--BAA said Wednesday that its U.K. airports handled 9.6 million passengers in February, an increase of 0.8% over the same month last year.

The underlying trend is distorted by the additional leap year day in 2004. Stripped of the extra day, the underlying increase for February 2005 is 4.8%.

On the same like-for-like basis, excluding the extra day in 2004, key markets performed well. The strongest growth was on Other Long Haul routes where traffic increased 9.5% while North Atlantic markets added 5.1%.

Low cost travel continued to benefit Irish and European scheduled routes with Irish traffic growing 8.6% and European scheduled traffic rising 5.4%. Domestic traffic grew 1.3% while European charter traffic continued to decline, falling 4.4% against the previous year.

On a like-for-like basis, Heathrow was up 3.3%, while Gatwick's strong scheduled markets offset the weak European charter market to provide an overall increase of 9.5%. Stansted rose by 4.0% and Southampton by 2.2%.

In Scotland like-for-like results showed strong scheduled traffic offset weak charter markets to give an overall increase of 4.3%. Glasgow's like-for-like result was 3.7% higher, while Edinburgh was up 3.2% and Aberdeen up 9.8%.

In total, air transport movements at BAA airports increased 3.1% on a like-for-like basis (0.1% lower when compared against a 29 day February 2004), while cargo tonnage increased 1.3% (2.7% lower against a 29 day February 2004).
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BAA lifted as winter fares lure passengers
Angela Jameson
10 March 2005
The Times

A WINTER price war between airlines contributed to a 4.6 per cent increase in air traffic last month at airports operated by BAA.

About 9.6 million passengers passed through airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted last month as the airlines fought to attract passengers.

Long-haul travel to destinations outside North America was the best performer -up 9.5 per cent -as the booming economies of Asia and the Middle East encouraged more business travel.

Budget flights to European destinations were also popular.

The strong passenger figures were in line with those reported by the low-cost airlines easyJet and Ryanair and those announced for February by British Airways.

BAA has flagged slower passenger growth in its next financial year, which begins in April, as the rate of new people travelling falls from recent highs.

BAA said in January that its performance in the three months to the end of March, its fourth quarter, would hinge on how aggressively airlines marketed cheap fares and competed over the Easter holiday this month.

All BAA's airports recorded gains, with Heathrow up 3.3 per cent, Gatwick rising 9.5 per cent and Stansted adding 4 per cent on an underlying basis.

BAA's three Scottish airports saw a like-for-like increase of 4.3 per cent to 1.26 million passengers, while traffic through Southampton airport rose by 2.2 per cent to 109,100.

A price war on budget travel to the Irish Republic, after easyJet launched new flights to the home turf of rival Ryanair, helped traffic to accelerate by 8.6 per cent last month.
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Heathrow workers balloted over strike
16 March 2005
Airline Industry Information

Baggage handlers at London's Heathrow Airport are being balloted on possible strikes in a dispute over contracts, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) has said.

The results of the ballot by nearly 800 workers are expected to be known later this week.

The dispute at Heathrow was sparked after baggage handlers and other workers were transferred from Swissport to Aviance, which provides ground handling services. According to the TGWU 70 workers were transferred on different pay, terms and conditions from existing staff, which led to concerns about a two-tier workforce. Talks will be held on Wednesday (16 March) aimed at solving the dispute and avoiding chaos at the airport over the busy Easter period.
Tories back Europe-wide tax on aviation fuel
Airlines say environment strategy will cost party votes

Andrew Clark - Transport correspondent
21 March 2005
The Guardian

The Conservatives intend to put the brakes on Britain's boom in low-cost air travel by pushing for a Europe-wide tax on aviation fuel, which could lead to as much as pounds 7 being added to the cost of airline tickets.

In an interview with the Guardian the shadow transport secretary, Tim Yeo, outlined environmental measures that will alarm airlines.

He questioned the justification for flying between London and Scotland, and said he would impose stringent financial obstacles to the construction of a new runway at Stansted airport.

Environmental organisations have long argued for a tax on aviation fuel in order to force airlines to pay for the damage they cause in harmful emissions and climate change.

Ministers from France and Germany last month suggested a Europe-wide tax of euros 300 (pounds 208) per tonne of aviation fuel, which would add between euros 5 and euros 10 (roughly pounds 3.50 to pounds 7) to every fare, with the proceeds to be channelled towards aid for Africa.

Tony Blair opposed the measure, telling MPs that he would not "slap some huge tax on cheap air travel".

In his first detailed comments on aviation policy, Mr Yeo said: "If I was in office on May 6 I would want to straight away talk to my colleagues in Europe about how we could make progress towards a fuel tax. Aviation has to take account of its environmental impact to a greater extent than it has done in the past."

His remarks were attacked by EasyJet, which said a tax would disproportionately hit travellers on a tight budget.

Its spokesman Toby Nicol said passengers already paid pounds 5 air passenger duty on every short-haul flight, which was roughly equivalent to a 100% tax on fuel.

"The idea that airlines don't pay an environmental tax already is ridiculous," he said. "Going out to the public six weeks before an election and saying, 'I want to make air travel more expensive,' is a surefire vote loser."

British Airways and other big carriers argue instead for an emissions trading scheme, under which airlines would trade "permits" for pollution.

They say this would be a better incentive towards less-polluting fuel; and they add that the objectives of a fuel tax could be foiled by airlines filling up with vast quantities of cheap fuel in the US and emitting more pollution as they carry it across the Atlantic.

Environmentalists privately suggested that the Conservatives wanted to reach out to voters in rural areas around airports, who were worried about the government's plans for runway development.

Mr Yeo's South Suffolk constituency is close to Stansted. He said he would make it difficult for BAA to expand the airport by preventing it from "cross-subsidising", using funds from Heathrow and Gatwick.

But Friends of the Earth's aviation campaigner Paul de Zylva said: "I think the public is increasingly recognising that it is absolutely absurd for airlines to get away with paying less than 20p a litre for jet fuel."

The group wants the duty to be set at the same rate imposed on petrol for motorists, which, if translated to ticket prices, would put pounds 20 on a short-haul journey and up to pounds 120 on a transatlantic flight.

Passenger numbers on flights between Britain and the rest of Europe went from 51m in 1993 to 97m in 2003.

Mr Yeo said he wanted airlines to print information about environmental emissions on every ticket. He said: "No one can say they are serious about being interested in addressing climate change without addressing aviation.

"If you are going to go from London to Glasgow the environmental impact is often less if you drive."
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Busy Heathrow comes bottom for punctuality
Andrew Clark Transport correspondent
24 March 2005
The Guardian

Holidaymakers and travellers faced more frustration than ever at Heathrow last year as the international hub delivered its worst punctuality performance on record.

Just 68% of takeoffs and landings were either on time or within 15 minutes of schedule in 2004, providing ammunition for critics who say the airport is overstretched and needs a new runway.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, punctuality for flights at airports nationwide slipped by 1% to 75% for scheduled flights and by 4% to 70% for holiday charters.

Heathrow performed worst out of Britain's 10 main international airports, with a year-on-year drop of 5%. London City came top with 82%.

Heathrow's dismal performance, its worst since CAA records began in 1992, was partly due to a staff shortage at British Airways last summer which caused the cancellation of dozens of flights and delays to hundreds more. The airport also struggled to cope with winter snowfalls and autumnal storms.

CAA figures showed the average scheduled flight at a British airport was delayed by 14 minutes, with charters put at 23 minutes late.

Passengers for Lisbon, Toronto, Warsaw, New York and Budapest suffered the worst delays on scheduled flights, while Tenerife was the worst for holiday destinations, with a third of flights late.

Regional terminals typically fared better. Among the most timely were Birmingham and Newcastle, which 80% punctuality for scheduled flights. Edinburgh scored 74% for scheduled, 67% for charter.

* A leading consumer group yesterday attacked the number of "extras" added by airlines to the price of flights. The Air Transport Users' Council said advertised fares were often misleading because they left out taxes, booking fees and charges.
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New Gatwick runway plan
Dominic O'Connell
27 March 2005
The Sunday Times

BAA will this week unveil proposals for a new runway at Gatwick, Britain's second- busiest airport, as part of a 25-year master plan for the southeast hub. The airports group is barred from building a second runway at Gatwick until 2019 by a legal agreement with local councils. But last year ministers asked it to investigate construction as part of a white paper on airports policy.

BAA is expected to identify a range of options for a new runway in a consultation document to be released on Tuesday.

The proposals are likely to enrage anti-airport protesters and local residents.

The company will stress it has made no commitment, and is complying with the government's request for detailed proposals.

But BAA is also expected to reveal that it has increased the maximum number of passengers Gatwick will be able to accommodate with the current single runway.

The upper limit had been set at 40m and is likely to be raised to 45m. This increase will be achieved by a rejig of terminal buildings and the adoption of new technology that will all but eliminate check-in queues.

It is understood that BAA wants to use Gatwick to try out a number of new technologies and working practices that could greatly speed passenger throughput.

The release of the consultation document is likely to reignite the debate over runways in the southeast. Last year a long-awaited government white paper on aviation chose Stansted, another BAA airport, as the first site for a new runway in the congested region.

Another could be built at Heathrow, provided that air-quality concerns are addressed, with BAA directed to examine options for Gatwick after 2019, and to safeguard the necessary land if the Heathrow plans prove impracticable. Airport protesters have tried to overturn the white paper's findings, but the government fought off a string of judicial reviews in the High Court this year.

One of the grounds for the challenge was the financial viability of the Stansted project. Protesters argued that the low-cost carriers that dominate Stansted would refuse to pay the prices necessary to fund a new runway development.

The housebuilders Laing and Persimmon mounted a legal challenge specific to Gatwick, saying that expansion of the airport could jeopardise plans for hundreds of new homes near the airport.
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UK air traffic control to shut centre near Heathrow

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Britain's air traffic control body said on Wednesday it planned to close down its operation centre near London's Heathrow airport as part of a 1 billion pound ($1.9 billion) modernisation programme.

National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS) said in a statement it would move 500 staff from its West Drayton centre near Heathrow to its existing Swanwick operations at Fareham in England by 2007.

The move is part of NATS' plan to control UK airspace from two centres at Swanwick and Prestwick by 2010 instead of the existing four.

The partly privatised body is implementing a 1 billion pound investment plan to modernise Britain's air traffic control system and add enough capacity to deal with 3 million flights per year by 2012, up from 2 million in 2003.

NATS was criticised in June last year after a computer failure briefly grounded all aircraft in Britain at peak time in the morning, causing airport chaos.

NATS is 49 percent owned by the British government, 42 percent by a consortium of UK airlines, 4 percent by airport operator BAA Plc (BAA.L) and 5 percent by NATS staff.
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All change at Heathrow
Andrew Clark, Transport correspondent
2 April 2005
The Guardian

Virgin Atlantic's cramped check-in area at Heathrow is to be doubled in size through a pounds 50m Norman Foster-designed terminal extension dedicated to the airline.

The development, due to be completed in phases between 2007 and 2012, will include extra desks and a "drive-thru" area for premium passengers arriving in complimentary limousines.

The work will be paid for by BAA, which is under pressure to improve facilities for smaller airlines once British Airways moves to the airport's fifth terminal which is due to open in 2008.

Several carriers including BMI have accused the airport operator of putting them at a disadvantage by leaving them in ageing buildings with facilities inferior to those offered by BA.

BAA this week revealed that it intends to put Star Alliance's 16 airlines, which include BMI, United Airlines and Lufthansa, in a revamped terminal one. Heathrow's terminal two will become an enlarged arrivals hall for terminal one.

Terminal four will be reserved for the SkyTeam alliance - which includes Air France-KLM, Alitalia and Delta. Terminal three will be for unaligned long-haul airlines using the new A380 Airbus superjumbo.
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Retailers are sold on sites as BAA prepares Terminal 5 for business
Sarah Butler
11 April 2005
The Times

Sarah Butler on the plans for the highly prized shopping units at Heathrow's new Pounds 39bn extension

A GEM of a fact underlines the soaring success of airport retailing: that a fifth of fragrances and 13 per cent of sunglasses bought in Britain are sold either side of the departure gates.

The revelation explains the scramble under way for the mostly highly prized shopping sites at Heathrow's Terminal 5 after BAA, the airports operator, has confirmed plans for up to 150 retail sites.

Britain's airports have already traded nicotine-stained coffee shops for the likes of Chez Gerard and Starbucks, while boutiques such as Hermes and Burberry sit side-by-side with high street staples such as Boots and Dixons.

Colin Hargrave, managing director of BAA Retail, told The Times: "People are arriving earlier at the airport since 9/11. Partly, they are planning for the new security measures, but they are also planning to spend a bit of time shopping once they have gone through security."

BAA, which operates seven UK airports including Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, derives more than half its income from retail. It needs the cash to fund the building of new terminals and runways.

So the past few years have seen the company add 750,000 sq ft of retail space by extending existing terminals.

For example a 20,000 sq ft extension to Terminal 1 at Heathrow will open in June, with the first airport store for LK Bennett, the footwear retailer, and BAA's first experiment with signing up a gastropub -the Tin Goose, run by Geronimo Inns. Terminal 5 will add 200,000 sq ft more retail space, bringing the total to about 1.4 million sq ft.

Because space is at a premium in airports, each retailer operates within stores much smaller than their high street equivalent, but sales per sq ft can be many times higher.

One property agent said that retailers could pull in about Pounds 2,000 per sq ft compared with much less than half that for most high street retailers.

Hargrave says: "It's a real learning curve for retailers in their first year. They don't always appreciate the pace and the volume."

But, of course, this volume comes at a price. While basic rents are typically Pounds 100,000 compared with Pounds 350,000 on the high street, retailers must hand over up to 22 per cent of their turnover to airport operators, according to property sources, compared with 10 per cent on high streets.

In addition, the tight space and security conditions imposed by airports mean that operating costs are considerably higher.

There is no space for a stock room, so merchandise must be delivered to the store from an off-site location several times a day, much of it checked through customs.

Some terminals have a web of secret underground passages where staff and merchandise can be checked through completely separately. The whole operation, from security passes to 24-hour staff, is expensive. But retailers say that the payoff is more than worth it.

Several retailers have their highest-turnover stores in airport locations -for example, Fat Face's new site at Gatwick.

The airport is a unique kind of retail environment, which can give would-be international brands a chance to find out which nationalities might appreciate their wares, and the high footfall means that retailers can get an instant reaction to new ideas.

Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, handles 65 million passengers a year.

BAA collects a huge amount of information on the type of customers passing through and and hands this on to stores so that they can tailor their ranges to suit.

Stores will often change the displays more than once a day to reflect the tastes of the different kinds of passengers arriving. And, of course, each airport terminal also has its distinctive clientele.

At Stansted, for example where 93 per cent of the business is low-cost airlines flying to Europe, BAA has worked with food outlets such as Starbucks and even Caviar House,the upmarket seafood bar, to develop "grab and go" meals that can be eaten on the aircraft, because many budget airlines offer little or no food.

Terminal 3 at Heathrow, which handles mainly long-haul flights, has designer retailers, such as Chanel, as well as high street shops and sit-down restaurants catering to foreign nationals waiting to transfer to different flights.

At Gatwick South, high street brands such as Ted Baker and French Connection cater to families going on holiday.

Terminal 5 will no doubt combine the upmarket and high street brands, but Hargrave says that he wants to try out new ideas as well.

He says that BAA plans to introduce health and beauty services, perhaps including a walk-in clinic or a hairdresser, to see how this appeals to customers.

The Pounds 39 billion, five-storey terminal, with more shopping outlets than Brent Cross, the North London shopping centre (albeit within a smaller space), is expected to open in 2008.

It will serve British Airways flights that currently operate out of Heathrow's terminals 1 and 2.
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