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The journey passengers face in getting to and from UK airports can be a significant part of the cost of any flight, we call this journey 'surface access'.

We undertook a review of surface access to UK airports to better understand how it operates and how that affects consumers, focusing primarily on road-based access to airports, including transport-providers' access to the airport forecourt and how parking products are distributed online. We recognised that the availability of rail modes is important to understand competitive conditions at UK airports, but we did not review that aspect of surface access.

In December 2016, we published the Final report of our review, which summarises the responses received to our consultation and presents our conclusions. Overall, we found that the sector appears to be relatively dynamic, with a variety of businesses active in providing surface access services of different types to passengers.

The two main topics we looked at in the surface access review were:

  • The market structure for surface access, in particular how competitive conditions for road and forecourt access affect the consumer.
  • Whether transparent information is in place to ensure customers are well informed about the options they have to access UK airports, and the charges they face when using surface access services (including car parks).

From January to April 2016, we consulted stakeholders on the findings of our initial research into the sector with the aim of gathering views and further information from the aviation and surface access industries, as well as organisations representing both those industries and consumers. We received 39 responses, which are available below:

The review concluded that the range of choice available to passengers varied considerably by airport. Passengers travelling to and from large urban airports generally benefit from greater choice compared with those using smaller airports or airports with poorer transport links.

The review identified a number of concerns regarding business practices that have the potential to infringe the competition prohibitions under competition law and certain aspects of consumer law. However, we did not consider we had, at that time, sufficient grounds for a Market Study under the Enterprise Act 2002. Also, we did not consider we have, at that time, sufficient grounds for an investigation under competition or consumer law. However, not commencing a market study or a competition or consumer law infringement investigation, at this time, does not stop us from doing so in the future.

As a result, we decided to write an Advisory Letter to UK airport operators, surface access operators and relevant trade associations setting out these concerns. We encouraged all market participants to review their practices and ensure they are compliant with competition and consumer law now and in the future.

In related development, the CAA has recently 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. We have referred to this decision in the review’s Final Report.