Airlines slam BAA reaction to snow chaos

Marion Dakers
HEATHROW operator BAA came in for stiff criticism in front of the transport select committee yesterday, with airlines slamming the firm’s handling of the snow in December.

Executives from Virgin Atlantic and British Airways told the committee that BAA’s organisation problems left thousands stranded.

“At the end of the day, if the airport operators do not provide a service to us it is our customers that suffer and that is a situation that is not acceptable to us,” said BA’s operations director Andrew Lord.

Virgin chief executive Steve Ridgway said communication between BAA and airlines had been poor compared to Gatwick, which he said worked more closely with carriers to minimise disruption.

Both Virgin and BA called for rules that would allow the government to fine airports for poor performance.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews was apologetic, telling the committee: “We had planned for six centimetres of snow, in the event we got far more than that... We should have had a plan which envisaged much more snow.”

BAA is due to publish its own report on the snow delays later this month.

Ferrovial, BAA’s Spanish parent, also said yesterday it was studying offers for a 10 per cent stake in BAA, put up for sale to help pay Ferrovial’s debts.

Chinese operator HNA was yesterday seen as a leading contender, though a Ferrovial spokesperson said no decision has been made.