BUSINESS leaders believe the sale of a Southampton Airport could bring economic benefits for Hampshire.

Southampton is one of three airports in the UK owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH) up for sale.

It is understood they could be sold by the end of the year.

Hampshire Chronicle:

An aerial view of Southampton Airport

Maureen Frost, deputy chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said it could mean new routes and facilities which could benefit Hampshire business in the long term.

She said: “Southampton Airport is a successful and well used regional airport and as such should be an attractive proposition to a potential purchaser.

“It will obviously lead to a period of uncertainty for both passengers and employees but there is no indication from this announcement that the overall future of the airport is in jeopardy.

“We would hope that any new owner of the airport would fully consult with the business community over any changes to existing routes.”

Hampshire Chronicle:

Maureen Frost of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce

Passengers travelling from the airport yesterday welcomed the sale saying they hoped it would mean an expansion and improvement of services and facilities.

HAH has said it was “entering a sales process” which could see Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports sold - possibly to HAH's biggest shareholder, Spanish transport infrastructure company Ferrovial.

HAH used to be known as British Airports Authority and once ran seven airports including Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports.

Now it owns just four; Heathrow, Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Concerns about BAA's monopoly position and its performance at its airports led to an inquiry by the Competition Commission, now the Competition and Markets Authority.

It ruled that BAA had to sell Gatwick, Stansted and one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.

Gatwick was sold to Global Infrastructure Partners for £1.5billion in 2009 and Edinburgh in 2012 for £807million, while last year Stansted was sold for £1.5billion to the Manchester Airport Group.

Southampton Airport did not want to comment and directed inquiries to HAH.

A spokeswoman from HAH said: ''Over recent months Heathrow Airport Holdings group shareholders and management have been considering their strategic position in relation to our three airports, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton.

''As a result the group is now formally entering a sale process.

''While there is currently no certainty that a sale will be concluded, the group intends to work towards completing a transaction by the end of the year.''