Stansted airlines in angry call for the CAA to be scrapped

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The Independent Online

Airlines using Stansted airport have called for the Department for Transport to scrap the CAA and replace it with a new civil aviation regulator after having "lost all confidence" in the body's ability to regulate BAA, the airports monopoly.

In scathing written evidence submitted yesterday to Sir Joseph Pilling appointed last year to conduct a DfT investigation into the Civil Aviation Authority airlines including Ryanair, British Airways and easyJet accuse the regulator of a "lack of willingness to deal with the abusive conduct of BAA."

The charges will increase the pressure to break up BAA, which operates seven airports including Heathrow and Gatwick. The Competition Commission is carrying out an inquiry to determine whether an increase in competition via a breakup would lift the standard of services at the group's airports.

In yesterday's submission, seen by The Independent, the Stansted ACC, the group representing the airlines using the airport, suggests that "the appointment of an alternative regulator should be considered which has the required industry expertise." The group added: "The CAA has not demonstrated any particular expertise in respect of the airport sector which would suggest that it is capable of discharging the economic regulatory function in respect of the UK's airports."

The carriers are angry over an increase in landing charges at Stansted that BAA pushed through last year which has increased their operating costs and led to a drop in passenger traffic as customers chose cheaper airports. David O'Brien, the Stansted ACC chairman, said: "The CAA has allowed BAA to ignore the unanimous requests of users for the provision of low-cost, efficient facilities at Stansted airport. Even as passengers were forced to endure long security and immigration queues, the BAA doubled charges at Stansted while the CAA stood idly by. The CAA now preside over an airport regime where charges have doubled and passenger traffic is falling."

The CAA declined to comment as the inquiry was ongoing. BAA also declined to comment.

The group also criticised BAA's plan for a second runway and a new terminal building which it has branded a "gold-plated" development that will allow it to increase charges to airlines without providing the required increase in capacity. Meanwhile, BAA and the CAA have clashed over Heathrow expansion plans.

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