YP Letters: How airport went from public asset to private profiteer

From: Keith Handley, Scotland Way, Horsforth, Leeds.

Leeds Bradford Airport's ownership is under scrutiny.

I WAS interested to read recent letters highlighting the drop- off parking charges at Leeds Bradford Airport, compared to the free charges for similar parking arrangements at Manchester Airport.

It is now just 10 years since Leeds Bradford Airport was sold off to the private sector, originally to Bridgepoint, who recently sold it on to AMP Capital. The sole purpose of Leeds Bradford Airport is now to make money for its investors and no amount of corporate “customer care” gobbledegook can ever disguise this fact.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The airport concentrates on charter holiday flights and destinations, where the majority of passengers will only be passing through once a year, so in reality the airport can get away with almost anything in their quest for profits.

Leeds Bradford Airport had been publicly owned in various guises for over 70 years. Prior to being sold off, 80 per cent of the airport was jointly owned, under a private shareholder arrangement, by Leeds and Bradford Councils, with Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield owning the remaining 20 per cent.

The airport was well managed, it had three executive directors, the chair of the airport board was either a Bradford or Leeds councillor and the remainder of the board comprised councillors from the five shareholding authorities.

Unfortunately, this all changed in 2008 when, for a few short years, both Leeds and Bradford Councils were controlled by an alliance of Conservative and Liberal Democrats.

The two council leaders were both Conservatives, Andrew Carter at Leeds, and Kris Hopkins at Bradford (who later became MP for Keighley) and their two controlling groups colluded to encourage a private sector bid for the airport.

Compare and contrast this to Manchester Airport. The Manchester Airport Group is now the largest UK-owned airport operator and in addition to Manchester Airport, it also owns East Midlands and London Stansted.

Remarkably, however, the major shareholder in the group is the public sector who own 64.5 per cent.

So there we have it! Messrs Carter, Hopkins and colleagues hived off our airport to the private sector, they gave up over 70 years of public responsibility for Leeds Bradford Airport and we now live with the consequences. Perhaps the Manchester Airport Group could submit a bid for Leeds Bradford Airport?