Britain’s airport operator BAA has sold Gatwick Airport south of London for £1.51 billion to Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment fund that also owns London City airport.

Six thousand miles away on the balmy coast of KwaZulu-Natal, another international airport is also up for sale, only the buyer probably won’t be interested in flying planes.

The Gatwick deal follows an inquiry by the UK’s Competition Commission into BAA and its dominance of airports in the country’s South East and in Scotland.

Last March, the commission ruled that BAA sell either Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh or Glasgow airports to another operator, The Times reported from London.

And so it was done.

Back here in the Republic, Comair – which operates Kulula and British Airways’ South African operations – wants to buy Durban International Airport from the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) after the end of the Fifa World Cup in 2010.

Durban International – which is to be replaced by the mammoth King Shaka International Airport at La Mercy, 50km to the north of the city – enjoys an excellent position just south of Durban, in the heart of its industrial area.

As Comair joint CEO Gidon Novick told the Sunday Times, Ryanair’s huge success in Europe is largely due to its use of secondary airports in major cities.

But Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele says there is to be no competing against King Shaka. So, the old airport is likely to be sold for a huge amount of cash for industrial development.

Novick points out that the King Shaka International is so far north of the city that it will effectively leave the well-populated South Coast without an airport. Those people will give up flying and go by car instead, and the air travel market into Durban will shrink, along with tourism and business.

The message is: no competition for Acsa. The potential problems facing people and businesses on the South Coast don’t seem to carry any weight at all.

What a wonderful world it would be if South Africa’s competition watchdog actually had any teeth, and was prepared to use them.