Heathrow cancels 100 flights on second day of snow chaos - and one in five will be cancelled tomorrow
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 19 January 2013
One in five flights to and from Heathrow is to be cancelled tomorrow in a bid to avoid the chaotic scenes when snow disrupted schedules at Europe’s busiest airport.
Snow and reduced visibility is predicted for tomorrow. The airport owner and the airlines have agreed to reduce the level of operations in order to avoid the short-notice cancellations that cause massive problems for passengers and airlines.
Cancelling 20 per cent of aircraft movements creates “firebreaks” that give the airport far more resilience in the event of disruption. Figures released this week showed that Heathrow works on 98.2 per cent of capacity – a far higher proportion than any other airport.
The plan is designed to give passengers more certainty about their travel plans, so that they can turn up at the airport with reasonable confidence if their flight is set to operate, or rebook on another departure if they cannot travel on their intended service.
Heathrow’s chief operating officer, Normand Boivin, said: “Cancelling flights in advance of disruptive weather is a procedure used increasingly around the world, as it means the greatest number of passengers can fly with the minimum amount of disruption.”
By lunchtime today the mood at Britain’s premier transport hub, Heathrow Terminal 5, had subsided from fury and frustration to glum resignation. Overnight the British Airways terminal had resembled a refugee camp, with stranded passengers sleeping where they could on mats provided by the airline. And once again, images of the shambles when Europe’s busiest airport meets bad weather were beamed around the world.
An estimated 50,000 passengers were booked on the 400 flights cancelled yesterday – the majority of them BA departures. Most of the services that were axed were short-haul. But as problems with de-icing and a reduced “flow rate” built up, many intercontinental flights were cancelled – after the passengers had sat on board the planes for several hours waiting in vain for a departure slot.
Travellers bound for the US, Argentina, Hong Kong and South Africa complained that they were unable to retrieve their baggage, and that BA failed to provide hotel beds.
Although BA was legally obliged to provide accommodation for the tens of thousands of stranded passengers, the airline’s staff could not find enough hotel rooms in the Heathrow area.
From lunchtime onwards, the vast majority of the airline’s flights from Heathrow were cancelled - including dozens of long-haul flights. Many arrivals in the morning won’t show up, and in the first couple of hours a dozen outbound flights are axed.
The wintry weather, or at least Britain’s failure to deal with it, represents a loss of several million pounds to BA – and the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers put on hold, with many of them stranded thousands of miles from home.
Even if Heathrow is back to normal at the weekend – which looks unlikely – it will take until Monday morning before everyone is back on track.
Other airlines were barely affected. Of 104 cancellations predicted for today, all but four were on BA.
Aer Lingus, Air France and Lufthansa each cancelled a single departure because of the effects of bad weather, while Qatar Airways dropped the daily service to Doha that was due to be operated by a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” – the aircraft type currently grounded after safety concerns.
BA’s first two departures to Geneva, aimed squarely at upmarket skiers, were cancelled, along with dozens domestic and European departures. Many long-haul arrivals were cancelled because the outbound flight was grounded on Friday.
For every planeload of unhappy passengers stranded at Heathrow, there was an equal and opposite group of upset passengers at the other end, waiting for news on when they might be able to fly to London. Many of those lucky enough to reach the capital were dismayed to find that the Tube link was not operational, because of engineering work on the Piccadilly Line west of Hammersmith.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Three of Pope Francis' relatives die in Argentina car crash, including two young great-nephews
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad with Jager and potatoes for vodka as campsite opens tomorrow
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...