The Gatwick saga  

Mahmudur Rahman   | Published: December 31, 2018 22:09:18 | Updated: January 01, 2019 22:25:06

It's mind-boggling to say the least but after two quiet arrests and even quieter releases no one is any the wiser about the drones that disrupted Christmas Travel in the United Kingdom. The ensuing chaos and inconvenience ended with hardly any payouts to travellers and was one of a shrug of the shoulders and the word 'security'. Given the numbers of people involved and infrastructure, not to mention planes, the Gatwick shutdown was justified but it is unimaginable that with the latest technology the source of the drones took so long to discover.

So the news that a French firm has bought majority stakes in Gatwick, the second largest and busiest English Airport, causes the Sherlock Holmes in us to seek a bee in the bonnet. In more ways than one this acquisition has ramifications that match to an extent the famous Greek bailout whereby controlling stakes in airports and islands have gone into the hands of the Germans. With a Brexit on the horizon, the larger mass of the English people may or may not be over-enthused by a French control over one of their famous airports.

English airports are gloomy and user unfriendly by international standards, though billions of miles in advance of our own poor Shahjalal International Airport, and the approach to Gatwick can be a nightmare. But in this case, more than just controlling stakes, the French investment over that of similar ploughing in of money in the troubled France is stark. Whereas more and more businesses are reconsidering operating out of the UK post-Brexit this new investment raises new and bright questions about the British economy after what now seems an inevitable 'no deal' Brexit. It will send a message of good cheer in an otherwise doom and gloom atmosphere.

Gatwick transfers forty-five million passengers annually and is Europe's eighth largest airport with nearly 290,000 air transport movements. In spite of all this it is a single runway airport dealing mostly with European travel but one that is increasing as an international destination. Easy Jet commands 40 per cent of the traffic suggestive the French interests are in the European connectivity that will be hampered, not lost, after Brexit happens. With more passengers travelling than ever before it's a sound investment but one that will worry the right-wing nationalists that clamoured after control of their future.

Some years back a Thai investment in managing Chattogram Airport fizzled out after much fanfare. Chattogram, Sylhet and Dhaka, the three international airports, could do with some discipline.

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