Airports operator BAA narrows losses to £317m

Luggage trollies at Heathrow BAA's chief executive, Colin Matthews, described the company's performance as "robust"

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UK airports operator BAA has reported a loss of £317m for 2010 after a year of volcanic ash, strikes and snow.

The company said these disruptions meant 2.8 million fewer passengers passed through its airports last year, most of these lost at Heathrow.

The company's chief executive, Colin Matthews, said he expected the company to deliver a strong increase in profits and cash flow in 2011.

The pre-tax, unadjusted figure is an improvement on 2009's loss of £822m.

The loss has narrowed because the 2009 figure included losses from its forced sale of Gatwick airport and a £218m charge for its pension deficit.

BAA, which is owned by Spain's Ferrovial, owns and operates Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.

However, the Competition Commission wants BAA to sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports. Last week, BAA lost its latest court challenge against the ruling to sell these airports.

Learning lessons

The three exceptional events affecting the results began in April last year with the Icelandic volcano eruption. That closed Heathrow and Stansted for five days.

BAA also pointed to the 22 days of strike action by BA cabin crew strikes which resulted in 34 days of service disruption at Heathrow.

That was followed by airport closures and flight cancellations caused by December's heavy snow, which BAA said last month had cost it £24m.

The company has appointed an external panel of experts to establish what lessons could be learnt from the disruption in order that the airport can better respond to future problems.

It is due to report its findings next month.

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