BAA blamed for 'ineffective' snow response

Airport operator BAA's response to the pre-Christmas snow was "initially ineffective" leading to "distress" to passengers, a report into the December 2010 travel chaos said today.

Confused and contradictory messages caused incorrect signals to go to airlines and passengers, said the BAA-commissioned report.



The potential impact of the weather forecast was not fully anticipated in the days before the worst of the snow on December 18, the report said.



This led to "a low state of preparedness ahead of the snow and insufficient stock of critical supplies for an event of this scale", the report said;



Clearing the aircraft stands was slower than required and slower than rates achieved elsewhere.



This was because the condition of snow on stands became very difficult as a result of earlier aircraft de-icing and stand gritting. Airlines and BAA had not agreed priorities and protocols for dealing with and resourcing this situation. BAA did not have specialised equipment for under-aircraft stand clearance.



The report recommended that Heathrow adopt an improved winter resilience target that the airport should never close as a result of circumstances under its control, except for immediate safety or other emergency threats.



BAA said it accepted the report and was developing a £50 million resilience investment plan which it would recommend to airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority next month.



Led by BAA non-executive director Professor David Begg, the inquiry was set up by BAA on December 23 after the airport had started to return to normal following the heavy snow on December 18.



Thousands of Christmas getaway passengers had to camp in the terminals at the west London airport as airlines cancelled hundreds of flights.



In the report, the inquiry team said that no single event or decision led to the disruption in the period December 18-23.



It added that BAA's crisis management system was invoked on Friday December 17 to deal with congestion in Terminal 5.



The report went on: "The response to the snow on December 18 was initially not effective. There were failures in communication and co-ordination within BAA, and between BAA and airlines, which led to ineffective engagement between different parties, resulting in ineffective situational awareness and a delay in response and escalation.



"Confused and contradictory messages caused incorrect signals to go to airlines, to passengers, and from airlines to passengers.



"The executive crisis management team and the capacity constraints group proved effective in managing the crisis once invoked. Both groups should have been mobilised earlier."



The report continued: "Passengers experienced distress as a result of the disruption. There was an apparent lack of compliance, by some airlines, of European regulation relating to obligations towards passengers; there were different and conflicting messages about the state of the airport and of flights; and there was slow reaction to terminal congestion by BAA."



Among the recommendations made by the inquiry team were:

* BAA and all those involved with Heathrow, including airlines, should agree an enhanced Heathrow snow plan. This should aim to ensure that the airfield remains open at all times, except when it has to be closed for safety reasons;

* There is a need for BAA to strengthen its approach to emergency planning, response and recovery;

* On communications, a single physical control centre should be established for the management of major incidents, where parties can meet to make more informed decisions;

* On passenger welfare, BAA, together with airlines and retailers, should prepare and routinely test a sustainable welfare plan that can be triggered immediately. The plan should include measures to ensure adequate, trained people are available from BAA and the airlines and systems are in place to provide accurate information on flight and airport status.



One of the things that BAA has done in response to the report is set up a strategic board with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, bmi, air traffic control company Nats and the Civil Aviation Authority to improve things for passengers at Heathrow.



This was welcomed today by Professor Begg, who added: "For us the single most important message from the inquiry is that all members of the Heathrow community need to work together.



"Many people worked extremely diligently and for long hours to serve passengers during the crisis period. Our aim has been to put the passenger experience at the heart of our recommendations."



BAA said its £50 million would allow the airport to implement the recommendations in the Begg report.



BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Our aim is to better serve passengers in normal times and at times of disruption, whatever the cause.



"If the entire Heathrow community learns from this report, and works more collaboratively to promote passengers' interests, then this is a pivotal moment for the airport and its reputation."



He went on: "We clearly understand our role in keeping Heathrow open, unless for emergency or safety reasons, but to do that and to achieve the highest standards of passenger care, we need to work more closely and collaboratively with airlines and them with us, and all agree on the necessary training and investment.



"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.



"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."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice