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The Competition Act 1998

We have concurrent powers with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to enforce the prohibitions in the Competition Act as they relate to airport operation services and the supply of air traffic services.

The prohibitions are:

  • Chapter I - Agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings or concerted practices which:
    • may affect trade within the UK; and
    • have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK
  • Chapter II - Any conduct on the part of one or more undertakings which amounts to the abuse of a dominant position in a market if it may affect trade within the UK. We also have powers to enforce the equivalent provisions relating to competition in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Articles 101 and 102 respectively) where the relevant behaviour may affect trade between Member States.

UK Competition Network (UKCN)

Together with the other sector regulators and the CMA, we are a member of the UK Competition Network (UKCN). The UKCN works to ensure consistency of application of competition law in the regulated sectors to support and enable competition.

As for the other regulators, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the CMA that sets out how we will, in practice, work together within the framework of competition law.

CAA guidance on the application of competition law

We have issued guidance on how we will apply competition law where we have these powers. The guidance sets out the application of our competition powers that covers the whole breadth of our powers in relation to airport operation services and air traffic services - to undertake sector reviews, carry out market studies, make market investigation references to the CMA, and investigate competition infringements and super complaints.

The guidance has been prepared to inform our stakeholders - businesses and their advisers, consumers, consumer groups, and other interested parties on how we will apply our competition powers and duties. It sets out how we will apply our concurrent competition powers and seeks to explain the interface between generally applicable competition law and aviation specific legislation.

If you are submitting a complaint to us about conduct that you consider may be prohibited under the Competition Act, we suggest you contact us either by e-mail at economicregulation@caa.co.uk or telephone 020 7453 6225.

We have also published prioritisation principles that explain our approach in deciding which pieces of work to take forward in the areas of consumer protection, competition law and economic regulation.

Important Note - Arrangements for the handling of leniency applications in the regulated sectors:

All businesses wishing to apply for, or enquire about leniency, should first approach the CMA by calling their leniency number in order to secure their place in the leniency queue. The CMA’s leniency number is 020 3738 6833.

Find out more:  More information on the arrangements for the handling of leniency applications in the regulated sectors. 

The CMA guidance on leniency and no-action applications in cartel cases is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/leniency-and-no-action-applications-in-cartel-cases

Environmental sustainability guidance

On October 12 2023 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published Guidance on the application of Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 to environmental sustainability agreements (the CMA’s environmental sustainability guidance).

Under section 54 of the Competition Act 1998, the CAA has concurrent powers to enforce competition law in relation to airport operation and air traffic services.

Where appropriate, the CAA will have regard to the CMA’s environmental sustainability guidance in the application of our concurrent competition powers.

Brexit update

The CMA has published guidance on its functions under the Withdrawal Agreement. This seeks to explain, among other things, how the UK’s exit from the EU affects the CMA’s powers and processes for competition law enforcement during the transition period, towards the end of that period, and after it ends. To the extent that the CAA’s competition functions are held concurrently with those of the CMA as explained in our own guidance above, we will have regard to this guidance following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Areas of work

Air traffic services

At the request of the Department for Transport, we have assessed the contestability of the market in provision of terminal air traffic services in the UK.


Joint letter from CMA and CAA to airport operators

On 26 January 2023, the CAA and the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) jointly published an open letter to remind airport operators of their responsibilities and obligations under competition law. This open letter follows the receipt of intelligence to suggest that some UK airport operators might not always be complying with competition law.

CMA investigation into conduct in respect of facilities at airports

On 18 September 2018, the CMA issued a statement of objections to Heathrow Airport Limited (and its parent Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited) and Heathrow T5 Limited (and its parent Arora Holdings Limited) following admissions of infringements of competition law. Heathrow will pay a maximum fine of £1.6 million.

Heathrow T5 Hotel Limited (and its parent Arora Holdings Limited) will not be fined, as long as they continue to co-operate, as the Arora Group applied for and was granted immunity under the CMA’s leniency programme.

As part of this investigation, the CMA sent a number of warning letters to other airports and hotel operators where there are, or were, reasonable grounds to suspect they may also be party to agreements containing price restrictions.

CMA Press release: Heathrow and Arora admit to anti-competitive car park agreement (18.9.18)

CAA Press release: Civil Aviation Authority statement on CMA anti-competitive car park agreement investigation (18.9.18)

We have issued an Open Letter to airport operators and their relevant business partners following CMA’s airport car parking investigation.

CAA East Midlands airport car parking competition investigation

In December 2016, the CAA found that East Midlands International Airport, and its parent company Manchester Airport Group, and Prestige Parking Ltd infringed the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 by participating in an agreement between October 2007 and September 2012 (at the latest) to fix the minimum prices that Prestige charged its customers for car parking services at the airport. More information about this can be found in the case page.

Review of market conditions for surface access to airports

In December 2016, the CAA concluded a review of market conditions for surface access at UK airports and issued an advisory letter setting out some concerns identified by the review. The letter encouraged all market participants to review their practices and ensure they are compliant with competition and consumer law.

Other legislation

The CAA can also investigate complaints about the conduct of airports under some other pieces of legislation.

Links to the relevant pages on our website on these pieces of legislation are below:

Occasional monitoring reports

In May 2016, we published a market monitoring report reviewing the information provided by Aberdeen Airport under the undertakings given as a result of the Competition Commission's 2009 Market Investigation into the supply of airport services by BAA.

We've also prepared a report in response to a call for evidence by the British Infrastructure Group (BIG) – a cross-party group of MPs whose goal is to promote better infrastructure in the UK. This report offers a number of observations on the three potential policy interventions to increase regional connectivity raised in the BIG’s Call for Evidence: the role of government/Public Service Obligations (PSOs); renegotiating the EU slot regime; and discounts for domestic routes/incentives for smaller aircraft.