Business air travel boost benefits BAA

A BOUNCE-BACK in business travel helped BAA to shrink its losses at Heathrow and Stansted, although the UK airport operator warned of a possible impact next year from spending cuts.

BAA also echoed British Airways in urging simplified security at UK airports, saying some measures inconvenienced passengers.

BAA said underlying traffic at Heathrow hit a record in the third quarter due to strong demand on services to European business destinations like Frankfurt, Geneva and Rome.

Passenger traffic at the capital's busiest airport jumped 4.4 per cent to 19.5m from July to September against a year ago and BAA voiced optimism about its prospects for the rest of the year.

The group, owned by Spanish builder Ferrovial, said pre-tax losses for the nine months to the end of September narrowed by 75 per cent to £192.6m as revenue rose 4.4 per cent to £1.5bn.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Heathrow is exposed to global business activity and that's one reason why it’s been so strong but with UK spending cuts there will be less money in people’s pockets.” The group also said it was in talks with airlines and the government about easing the strict security measures introduced following the 11 September attacks in the US.

BA yesterday criticised some airport checks as redundant and said Britain should stop “kowtowing” to US demands for increased security.

Matthews said good security was essential, but he said the current regulations had been built up in piecemeal fashion and needed a wholesale review.