Letter: BA: competition policy, sympathetic staff, smoke

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Sir: It has been said, in the wake of the British Airways/Virgin Atlantic 'dirty tricks' incidents, that there is a vacuum at the centre of this country's air transport policy, especially its competition policy, that requires the creation of an industry regulatory body such as Oftel or Ofgas. This is not necessary. The Civil Aviation Authority already has the powers and the means to deal with any perceived anti-competitive conduct by a British airline.

Under the Civil Aviation Act 1982, the CAA has wide powers to regulate the British air transport industry in order to ensure that demand for its services is satisfied and the interests of its users are met. More particularly it can, in its route licensing role, and with the benefit of an expedited procedure that has been introduced for this purpose, consider allegations that a competitor is engaged in behaviour that is damaging to a licence holder.

It has, moreover, issued a joint statement with the Office of Fair Trading (May 1985) in which their respective functions in relation to anti-competitive behaviour by airlines are explained. Any matters in which the CAA considers that its own powers are inadequate or inappropriate to provide the necessary remedy it will put before the director general of the Office of Fair Trading.

There is no reason to believe that the CAA would be slow to respond since it is clear from its exceptionally liberal licensing policy that it is strongly in favour of competition. In fact, it is currently carrying out a consultation process relating to possible changes in the statement of policies (including its policy in relation to competition) that it is required to publish from time to time. It would no doubt be willing to take into account, in this context, any new questions that arise from recent events.

Yours faithfully,




14 January