NATS backs down on DFS Gatwick win

UK-based air traffic control business NATS has dropped its court action to block Gatwick airport chiefs from concluding a deal with German rival DFS to provide tower services.
The contest to provide services at the airport until 2025 represents the largest UK airport to consider handing its air traffic services to a foreign provider and in July it was announced that DFS had triumphed over its British counterpart.
On 2 October NATS was granted an injunction after a judge supported what the business insisted were legitimate concerns over the way the contract was awarded.
Its main complaint was over information provided by Gatwick airport chiefs outlining the basis of the contract award. NATS complained that this did not amount to a full explanation which left it with no option but to pursue the matter through the courts.
Gatwick has always defended its decision which followed an ‘extensive’ tender process. It stated at the time that the proposal submitted by DFS was considered superior to submissions from all other contenders based on a range of criteria which included safety, innovation, airport management, technical capability, cost, resilience and the ability to accommodate the requirements of a growing airport.
“Neither NATS nor Gatwick Airport (GAL) wanted to enter into legal proceedings,” NATS tells Air Traffic Management. “NATS had sought more information as to the tender process under which GAL awarded the Terminal Air Navigation Services contract. GAL maintained it was not required to provide that information and NATS accordingly exercised its right to commence proceedings in the High Court.”
“The proceedings have delivered disclosure of information about the process that was not otherwise freely available. To prevent further uncertainty and increasing legal costs the parties have reached a settlement of the dispute before trial. Settlement is without any admission or acceptance of liability.”
The services to be covered by the contract cover air traffic and approach services below 4,000 feet around the airport; these services are currently provided by NATS.
Gatwick’s airport owners said that following a transition period, DFS would start providing the new services from October 2015 for a ten year period. NATS would meanwhile retain operations for all air navigation services above 4,000 feet, from its base in Swanwick.
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