A new operator may have to be found for Luton Airport after Spanish firm Abertis announced it may jettison its UK airport contracts in an attempt to slash its debts.
Abertis has the contract to run London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL) until 2031.
A spokesman for the company told The Guardian: “We are conducting a review of all our airport businesses to see if a sale is possible. All options are open, including the sale of our UK airports.”
It is understood the company has taken on banks Citigroup and AZ Capital to look at future options for its business, which has been hit by the economic crisis in Spain.
Luton Borough Council wants to expand the airport from its current 10 million passengers a year up to 18 million passengers a year.
A public spat last year saw the council threatened with a huge bill if it severed its contract with Abertis when a ‘break clause’ came up.
The two organisations subsequently resolved to work together on expanding the airport.
But one campaign group opposing airport growth said the possible departure of Abertis could temporarily see off the expansion plans.
HALE spokesman Andrew Lambourne said: “In terms of Luton Airport expansion the timing of this news couldn’t be worse – it clearly threatens the investment on which their hugely expensive expansion plans are based.
“The airport has not yet secured its planning permission – and given the significant grounds for objection this is not going to be an easy ride.
“And of course there is still uncertainty over whether the application is going to be called in for proper consideration as a national infrastructure project.
“In a climate where many businesses are consolidating rather than taking risks, a postponement of the application may well be in the best interests of Luton.
“The last thing the council would want is for them to overstretch and then go bust.”