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Changes may be good for future of our airports

Plans to sell Glasgow Airport are bound to be worrying for staff.

But the move could well benefit them and could hold benefits for passengers and Scottish businesses, too.

Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports are both being put on the market by Heathrow Airport Holdings, the company previously known as BAA. The decision, which HAH says is due to a change in strategy, is not a great surprise and indeed a sale has been rumoured all year.

Glasgow Airport, until just a few years ago Scotland's busiest, has fallen behind Edinburgh in terms of development and passenger numbers.

Edinburgh's relative success may well be due to the fact that it was itself sold by BAA in 2012. As the new name of the owners suggests, the company is based, and to a significant extent focused, at Heathrow.

Aviation business experts argue the Scottish airports may benefit from new owners whose attentions are not sucked away by the demands of the London airport which has only just relinquished its crown as the world's busiest.

Edinburgh's current owners, Global Infrastructure Partners, are seen as having done a good job since purchasing the business, with quicker decisions being taken and more investment secured.

Both Glasgow and Aberdeen airports could similarly benefit from being run by a smaller company with slimmer management. Customer service could be improved and the expectation is that both might see more investment.

This greater dynamism depends on a buyer being found, of course.

Airports, an attractive investment option pre-credit crunch, are less appealing now.

Nevertheless HAH hopes to find buyers before the end of the year. The tight timescale has led to speculation that a deal may already be close to being realised.

There have certainly been rumours of bids over the past year, most notably from Spanish firm Ferrovial, which reportedly had an £800 million offer for both airports rejected in February. Ferrovial also has a 25 per cent stake in HAH.

Both airports have potential - Glasgow's terminal recently underwent a £17m facelift, and its business is growing, although with passenger levels still lagging behind the 8.7 million it carried in 2007 a new owner would see potential for more.

While the Scottish Government's purchase of Prestwick Airport has been unsettling for Glasgow, and ministers are due to publish a vision for Prestwick later this month, Glasgow has done well to maintain and increase routes under the leadership of managing director Angela McMillan. Aberdeen, meanwhile has the lucrative business related to the oil and gas industry, including regular helicopter traffic to offshore installations.

Both airports are significant employers in their regions and a sale could offer them a new lease of life. The confirmation that they are for sale should be cautiously welcomed, in the interests of passengers, staff and the economy alike.

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