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09th September 2002

Consumer Council calls for Belfast Airports to stay in separate ownership

<p>Belfast’s two airports should remain in separate ownership according to Northern Ireland’s transport watchdog, the General Consumer Council.</p>

Responding to Bombardier’s announcement to put Belfast City Airport up for sale the Consumer Council said that the best interests of passengers would be served by the two Belfast airports remaining independent of each other.

Joan Whiteside, Chairman of the General Consumer Council said:

“The good service and competition provided by both Belfast airports should be maintained. Northern Ireland air travellers have benefited in recent years. We have an improved selection of destinations; fares are more competitive; and facilities and services have improved greatly at our airports. This is the undoubtedly the result of competition not only between airlines but between airports. Competition has therefore served the customer well and we would not like to see the two airports in joint ownership.”

The Council added that the issues raised in the 1995 Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on Belfast’s airports remained valid. This MMC report said that the two airports should remain in separate ownership to:

· prevent BIA using its increased market power to raise airport charges and thus inhibit market entry by airlines.
· stop joint ownership impeding airline competition and leading to possible reductions in routes and services and increases in fares
· maintain a choice for both airlines and passengers.

Notes to Editors

1. For further information contact Alan Walker on 9067 2488.