The unacceptable face of monopoly capitalism

2007

Is London's Heathrow the world's worst major airport? The Financial Times' Philip Stevens certainly thinks so, and most of those forced to use it appear to agree with him.

The interminable delays at security. The shuffling crowds in search of somewhere to sit as yet another flight is delayed. Worst, when you eventually escape you know the reprieve is only temporary. You will soon be flying back to broken travelators, long queues at immigration and mayhem in baggage reclaim. Welcome to Heathrow.

Bar the odd post pointing out that staff at New York's airports are as bad – or worse – than those at Heathrow, the responses to Stevens' piece almost all echo the same sentiments.

The best description of the Heathrow "experience"? "A filthy, unorganised shanty-town huddled between parking spaces for aircraft."

That this state of affairs has come to pass is a disgrace. Heathrow is run by BAA, whose contempt for its customer is possible only because it is a monopoly – it owns all three of the large London airports.

As Stevens points out, regulation has failed because the interests of passengers are ignored in favour of propping up a particularly unpleasant example of monopoly capitalism.

So how long until BAA's monopoly is broken up? Just how long should tens of millions of people be forced to use facilities operated by BAA? Let's hope that the UK's Competition Commission has the balls to break up the monopoly before it starts to do any more damage to the UK's economy and global reputation.

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