Agencies shortlisted for London Luton PA account

London Luton Airport is putting its public affairs contract out to tender and has established a shortlist of four firms for the work.

London Luton Airport is putting its public affairs contract out to tender and has established a shortlist of four firms for the work.

The repitch started with seven agencies - thought to have included GPC, APCO and Weber Shandwick Worldwide - but has been whittled down to incumbent Connect Public Affairs, and three others.

The contract has been with Connect in its various incarnations for more than ten years. Prior to the 1995 merger between Connect and GPC the airport was a GPC client.

Luton Airport head of planning and development Richard Moat is overseeing the pitch. Main board director Steve Barwick leads the four-strong team at Connect.

Connect's work for the airport took it through a turbulent ownership change in 1998-99. It began life as a creation of Luton council, but is now owned by London Luton Airport Operations, a public private partnership negotiated by Connect through both local and central government.

Connect managing director Gill Morris said: 'We welcome the review and the opportunity to assess what we have done and what we have planned for the year ahead.'

It is not clear whether the pitch process is still open to agencies not yet seen. The final round of presentations was meant to take place last week but has been postponed without explanation until the first week of March.

Airport spokesman Michael Thompson, appointed to the press office by media relations head Laura Goodes last summer (PRWeek, 7 July 2000), highlighted government policy on the expansion and operation of airports as the major issues facing whichever public affairs shop is successful in its pitch.

'They will tackle issues such as regeneration, economic development and integrated transport matters, as well as being our link to Westminster,' he said. The last-minute aversion of a strike by baggage-handlers in the weeks before Christmas is also understood to have fallen within Connect's remit.

London Luton opened a second terminal 18 months ago with 60 check-in desks. It is now the UK's seventh largest airport by passenger numbers - 5.5 million people passed through in the last financial year.

It is the country's most popular short haul airport, flying to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast and more than 50 other destinations in continental Europe.

The airport was last year involved in an acrimonious dispute with budget airline easyJet over landing fees, but easyJet remains the airport's largest user.

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