SOUTHAMPTON Airport – which provides Dorset’s business community with links to key European destinations – is up for sale.

Heathrow Airport holdings, formerly BAA, said it was “entering a sales process” that could see Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports sold.

If all were sold, it would leave the former BAA’s airport empire reduced to just one: Heathrow.

The company once owned seven airports, but a ruling by what was then the Competition Commission told it to sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

It sold Stansted last year to the Manchester Airport Group – which owns Bournemouth Airport – for £1.5bn.

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.”

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressed the importance of the airport to the county’s business community.

“Local airports are incredibly important, both from a domestic and business perspective,” he said.

“In a world where international trade opportunities are continuing to build, it’s essential that businesses are able to travel internationally relatively easily.”

Southampton’s destinations include key cities such as Amsterdam, Dublin, Hamburg and Paris Orly, as well as UK destinations including Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle.

Bournemouth Airport is set to benefit from infrastructure improvements after Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership was recently awarded £23m in government grants.

Mr Girling said: “It’s extremely good news to see transport links for Bournemouth Airport being improved.”