Branson lays out plan for airlines to buy Gatwick Airport

Sir Richard Branson

Plans: Sir Richard Branson has said he would consider bidding for Gatwick Airport

Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson has said he would be interested in bidding for Gatwick Airport if it were put up for sale, but only if other partners could be brought in.

Branson said it was time Britain's airports were run by airlines focused on customer service rather than the all-powerful monopoly BAA.

Paul Charles, communications director for Virgin Atlantic said: 'We would be interested in possibly buying Gatwick, but only as part of a consortium.'

'We would not do it alone,' Charles said, adding that it was still early days and the UK Competition Commission still had to release its final report on Britain's airports industry.

He added that Virgin Atlantic would bring its strong customer service record to any consortium interested in buying Gatwick, Britain's second-biggest airport.

Other airlines which could be interested in joining a consortium include easyJet, Ryanair and charter flights group Monarch.

The Virgin Atlantic director was responding to a report that said Branson was planning to bid for Gatwick with an offer that could cost more than £2billion.

Gatwick Airport

Bidding war: Gatwick Airport is not yet formally up for sale

'We are open to being courted by anyone who is interested in bidding,' Branson told the Daily Telegraph.

One airline analyst said: 'This is not really surprising. Everyone is interested. But the break-up of BAA is still some way off.'

The billionaire owner has already held talks with potential bidders, he said, thought to include funds backed by the Dubai royal family.

Gatwick is owned by Spain's Ferrovial airport unit BAA. The UK Competition Commission ruled earlier this month that Ferrovial must sell three of seven British airports, including two of three London airports - Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.

The plan by Branson, which adds his name to a string of prospective buyers, is at an early stage as Gatwick is not yet formally up for sale, and a final report from the Competition Commission is not expected until next year.

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