BAA in war of words with BA as Heathrow disruption continues

As 50,000 more travellers saw their Christmas plans wrecked by yesterday's flight cancellations at Heathrow, a war of words broke out between the airport owner, BAA, and its biggest customer. British Airways cancelled 150 flights on the basis of what it says turned out to be misleading guidance from the airport operator about when the second runway would reopen.

And as BAA's chief executive, Colin Matthews, bowed to pressure to forgo his bonus, the airport operator warned that it could deny access to airlines who fail to demonstrate their capacity to cope with a future crisis. But it is understood that BAA's board rubber-stamped a £10m snow investment programme on Tuesday after Mr Matthews acknowledged Heathrow's lack of equipment had been exposed.

Four of the eight BA flights to and from Paris have been axed today, together with four to Edinburgh, three to Manchester and to Aberdeen, and two to both Glasgow and Newcastle. Most European destinations can expect their first full quota of BA flights since last week. Some BA inbound intercontinental services have been cancelled, but all BA long-haul outbound flights are expected to depart.

The airline said it had planned yesterday's flying after BAA "issued a directive that Heathrow airport would operate one-third of a normal flight schedule". But the second, southerly runway reopened on Tuesday afternoon which would have allowed BA to operate many more flights yesterday.

Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, said: "We typically spend six weeks pulling together the complex Christmas rosters for our 14,000 cabin crew and more than 3,000 pilots. Those 17,000 rosters [have] been torn up by the days of disruption at Heathrow and around the world."

The airline dispatched wide-bodied Boeing 777s to key European cities where there were stranded passengers. The public areas of the passenger terminals at Heathrow continued to bear more resemblance to a First World War field hospital than a 21st-century transport hub but the airport blamed the airlines.

Simon Baugh of BAA told the BBC: "A lot of smaller carriers who operated out of Heathrow who only have one or two flights a day, and are not based in the UK, have not been able to deal with the volume of calls and inquiries they have had from their passengers, and their websites have not been updated frequently enough.

"We need to look seriously at whether we make it a condition of operating at Heathrow that if you want to fly from the UK's biggest hub, then you have to be able to answer passengers' queries better in periods like this."

Declining his 2010 bonus, BAA boss Mr Matthews, said: "We've had unacceptable conditions for passengers in the last few days, I'm responsible." Last year he was paid around £1.1m, roughly twice the expenditure made by Heathrow on preparations for dealing with snow this winter.

The airlines have lost tens of millions of pounds in revenue and additional costs as a result of Saturday's snowfall. One source said snow clearance only began after an official noticed the ice was thawing.

BA's operations have suffered most because it has nearly half of all landing and take-off slots. More than 40 fully loaded long-haul BA Boeings were diverted other airports. "We have never seen so many diversions of long-haul aircraft, even during the volcanic ash crisis," BA said.

As it became clear the Heathrow backlog would not be cleared by Christmas and some passengers might remain out of position until the new year, BA and Virgin Atlantic asked passengers to consider deferring their trips. Virgin offered full refunds to anyone booked to travel today or tomorrow, while BA extends the offer to the end of the year.

Airports latest

* Almost a third of the 1,300 flights that pass through Heathrow on an average day were cancelled yesterday. A slightly increased service is expected today.

* Other airports were taking up the slack, with London Gatwick operating at 115 per cent capacity and taking on 70 extra flights.

* About 1,100 passengers were still stranded at Heathrow yesterday and had yet to be repatriated.

* British Airways says it has cancelled 2,000 flights and diverted 40 fully-laden planes over the past six days. The disruption is thought to have cost the airline up to £40m in lost profits.

* BAA spent just £500,000 more this year on winter equipment at Heathrow, compared with £8m at Gatwick.

Suggested Topics
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas