Airport Regulation


The CAA has powers under the Civil Aviation Act 2012 for the economic regulation of operators of airports in the UK. Under the legislation an airport operator that passes the following test requires a licence issued by the CAA.  The test is:

a) The relevant operator has, or is likely to acquire, substantial market power in a market, either alone or taken with such other persons as the CAA considers appropriate.

b) Competition law does not provide sufficient protection against the risk that the relevant operator may engage in conduct that amounts to an abuse of that substantial market power.

c) For users of air transport services, the benefits of regulating the relevant operator by means of a licence are likely to outweigh the adverse effects.

Market power assessments

Starting in May 2011, the CAA undertook market power assessments of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports. In 10 January 2014, the CAA published its findings that Heathrow and Gatwick met the market power tests and therefore the respective operators required a licence. The CAA found that Stansted did not meet the tests for services to passenger airlines. In March 2014, the CAA found that Stansted did not meet the tests for services to cargo airlines at the airport. More information is on the airport market power assessment page

Airport licences

On 13 February, the CAA granted licences to the operators of Heathrow and Gatwick airports which came into force on 1 April 2014. These licences include conditions relating to price controls, service quality and operational resilience, amongst others. More details are on the quinquennial review of designated airports page.

The CAA has powers under the Civil Aviation Act to impose penalties for breach of a licence condition or breach of an enforcement order issued in relation to a licence condition. It may also impose penalties for non-compliance with information notices issued by the CAA and for destroying information or knowingly supplying false information. The CAA is required to publish a statement of policy on penalties for non-compliance under Chapter 1 of the Civil Aviation Act setting out the criteria it will use to determine whether a penalty is appropriate and the amount of any penalty. The CAA's penalties statement is available here.

Statutory undertakers

An airport operator whose annual turnover at the airport exceeded £1m in at least two of the last three financial years may apply for a certificate that confers rights on the operator as a statutory undertaker. Airport operators who already have a permission to levy airport charges issued under section 39 of the Airports Act 1986 retain their status as a statutory undertaker.  A note on the transition between the Airports Act and Civil Aviation Act, including a list of airports that have rights as statutory undertakings is available.

 A note on the information required in an application for a certificate is available.    

Airport Charges Regulations

Documents relating to the CAA's powers with respect to the European Directive on airport charges, including a list of the regulated airports, are on The Airport Charges Regulations 2011.

Groundhandling Regulations

Documents relating to the CAA's economic powers with respect to groundhandling are available on the page on Airports (Ground handling) Regulations 1997.

Competition Act

The CAA's competition powers with respect to airports are on the Competition Powers page.

Airports Act

Documents relating to the CAA's work under the Airports Act 1986 are available on  The Airports Act 1986. The CAA's economic regulation powers under part 4 of the Airports Act and under the Airports (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 ceased from 6 April 2013 for non-designated airports and from 1 April 2014 for the designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted).

Economic regulation of new capacity expansion of London airports

The CAA is currently looking to provide clarity on its expected approach to the economic regulation of any new capacity expansion of London airports and any associated costs that may be incurred during Q6 and subsequently.  Information on this is available here.