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Learning English - Words in the News
10 August, 2007 - Published 12:05 GMT
Poor service at British airports
A British Airways plane at London's Heathrow airport

Competition regulators in Britain have announced the terms of an inquiry into how Britain's airports are run. At the moment one operator, BAA, controls all the major hubs. The inquiry will consider whether this monopoly should be ended. This report from Mark Gregory:

Listen to the story

Long queues, delayed flights and overcrowding at airports have become almost as much a topic for conversation in Britain as the traditional moaning about the weather. Meanwhile, there are rumblings from industry that "Heathrow hassle", allegedly poor service standards at London's major hub, is deterring foreigners from doing business in Britain.

Much of the criticism is directed at BAA, formerly known as the British Airports Authority, which runs seven major airports, including the three main ones serving London. The Competition Commission is now to investigate whether BAA should be obliged to sell off some of its assets, including either Stansted or Gatwick, the secondary hubs catering to London. The idea is that competition between rival operators would lead to better service at airports.

BAA, recently bought by a Spanish company, says the root cause of the problems is not the ownership structure but a lack of runway and terminal capacity, which it is addressing through a programme of heavy investment.

Mark Gregory, BBC

Listen to the words

delayed flights
when planes depart and/or arrive later than their scheduled, or planned, time

when there are too many people in the same place at the same time


signs of dissatisfaction

major hub
here, main airport

obliged to sell off some of its assets
forced to sell some of its valuable possessions

catering to

rival operators
companies that are in competition with each other

the root cause of
the main (underlying) reason for

trying to deal with, trying to solve (a problem)

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