BAA has called in the City agency after parting company with Maitland, which it used for corporate work. The operator of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted did not previously use an agency for public affairs and Finsbury was handed the wide-ranging brief without a competitive pitch.
The move to bring in extra lobbying support comes as BAA celebrates its success in persuading transport secretary Ruth Kelly to support the case for a third runway at Heathrow.
BAA’s lobbying offensive was spearheaded by head of government relations at Heathrow Simon Baugh.
In a consultation document published last week, the Government said that unless the third runway was built by 2020, Heathrow’s status as a world-class airport would be eroded, jobs would be lost and the economy would suffer.
But the plans still face strong opposition from the green lobby and from London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Finsbury will provide public affairs support to help ensure the expansion plans are not watered down in the wake of such protests. The agency will also assist BAA’s in-house team on a number of other key projects.
These include lobbying for the expansion of Stansted Airport. BAA is planning to submit a planning application for a second runway at Stansted in the New Year.
BAA is also busy lobbying the Civil Aviation Authority, which this week set out its proposed price caps for charges levied on airlines by BAA.
Meanwhile, the Competition Commission will continue an investigation into whether BAA’s ownership of seven UK airports may inhibit competition and investment.
BAA public affairs director Malcolm Robertson said: ‘These are unprecedented times in terms of the challenges facing BAA. There are few companies that are operating in such a complex environment and under such scrutiny from politicians, legislators and the media.’ He added that Finsbury would ‘provide strategic support across the board’.
The airport operator recently appointed Tom Kelly, formerly an official spokesman for Tony Blair, as group director of corporate affairs.