BAA pledges £50m to fight the snow

Heavy snowfalls left many planes grounded
Heavy snowfalls left many planes grounded

By Alex Stevenson

Airports operator BAA will invest £50 million in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year's snow-caused delays at Heathrow.

The south-east of England saw the heaviest snowfall for 18 years, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Heathrow and pre-holiday travel chaos.

A report led by a non-executive director of BAA, Professor David Begg, on winter resilience was commissioned by BAA last December.

Its findings outline revised airport snow plans, crisis management processes, new command and control systems and extra passenger care and support.

"Heathrow is among the most congested airports in the world and the lack of spare capacity means that unlike every other British or European airport, we have literally no room to move when disruption occurs. This means that any problem, large or small, that slows down the rate of aircraft arriving at or leaving from Heathrow, will disrupt many people," BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said.

"Passengers will win as airlines, the airport and others work together and in some cases put aside historic differences to make Heathrow a better experience for passengers."

Today's announcements mark a major step on the road to rehabilitating BAA's reputation, after politicians sought to deflect public anger on the airports operator.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond called the events at Heathrow "unacceptable", telling the Commons before Christmas that airport operators should have been more pro-active in cancelling flights and saying that "lessons would be learned".

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle had said it "just isn't good enough to pass this off as a private sector problem... passengers have every right to feel abandoned by this government".


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