In a customer satisfaction survey involving 9,000 people, carried out between October and November 2008, Which Holiday magazine has BAA’s two principal airports at Heathrow and Gatwick as ‘worst in the UK’.
Finishing plumb last was Heathrow’s Terminal 1, with Terminals 2, 3, and 4 the next least-popular. Just above Heathrow were Gatwick’s two terminals.
The survey follows the UK’s Competition Commission (CC) confirmation of the break-up of airports operator BAA by ordering the company to sell three of its seven facilities; London Gatwick, London Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow. In its provisional report, the CC said it believed the lack of competition between airports owned by BAA was detrimental to passengers – the survey results would seem to suggest it was right.
The sale of Gatwick is already underway and possible buyers are being vetted. BAA, which was purchased by the Spanish company Ferrovial in 2006 for £10bn (US$14.3bn), has seen profits fall during the present economic downturn. Its Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, told the BBC: “We’ve been improving customer service across all airports, [but] we’ve got a long way to go.” Over the next five years, BAA will spend over £6 billion on improving airport infrastructure.
The only good news for BAA was that Heathrow’s Terminal 5 finished around half way up the satisfaction table, scoring particularly well in the shopping and eating categories, despite its disastrous opening a year ago. Southampton was BAA’s best showing in the survey with fifth place.
Regional airports fared best, with eight out of ten saying they were happy with services at Blackpool airport, followed by London City airport, Doncaster Sheffield and Southampton. Which Holiday’s editor, Lorna Cowan, said the survey showed passengers “prefer the experience of flying from smaller regional airports.”