Douglas Adams once wrote that “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, ‘as pretty as an airport’.” We don’t like airports: they are noisy chaotic beasts. But, if there is one group of airports that seem to take the biscuit it’s those British air terminals run by BAA.

The press, the public and the airlines seem to queue up to make their criticisms of BAA. London mayor Ken Livingstone, for example, has said Heathrow “shames” London.

Now, to cap it all off, news has broken indicating it could get even worse.

The latest snag with BAA is this. When Spanish company Ferrovial bought the private monopoly, it took on a lot of debt. Remember that word? Debt. It’s odd that BAA is struggling under a mountain of debt, and no one is yet drawing comparisons with the current liquidity crisis: the sub-prime market is not the only point of origin for debt fears.

The debt burden held by Ferrovial is making it difficult to generate sufficient profits to cover interest. And so what does that mean? Cost cuts.

The Times newspaper has reported that BAA is preparing to shed 2,000 jobs, which is quite a chunk, given the company only employs 15,000 people world-wide, 13,000 of them in the UK. According to the Times, of the UK’s 13,000-strong work force, 4,000 work in security, and one assumes these jobs are safe, so the pool of jobs available from which to take these cuts is actually quite modest.

Of course, fears have grown over how that will affect service. EasyJet has already slammed BAA. Expect more to follow.

There is even talk that BAA might actually sell some of its airports. Now there would be a fine thing: it might actually lead to the creation of some competition.
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