Airport snow chaos costs BAA £24m

Marion Dakers
AIPORTS operator BAA said yesterday its handling of the heavy snowfall in December will cost the firm at least £24m in lost revenues and added costs.

This figure could rise as airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and BMI pressure the company to compensate them for cancelled flights and widespread disruption, mainly at Heathrow.

“Anyone who says we don’t have the financial incentives to do the right thing for passengers can see the extraordinarily painful cost to us,” said BAA chief executive Colin Matthews.

He declined to comment on Virgin withholding its airport fees until at least March because of BAA’s performance during the snow storms.

Matthews forfeited his bonus and set up an enquiry into BAA’s handling of the travel chaos at the end of December, which is due to report in March.

BAA said around 40 per cent of its £24m hit came from supporting stranded customers, with most of the money spent on emergency accommodation. Most of the other 60 per cent was caused by lost revenue from cancelled flights.

British Airways, Heathrow’s largest airline by number of flights, said last week it had lost £50m throughout the eight days of snow-stricken services.

Passenger numbers at BAA’s six UK airports were down 10.9 per cent to 7.2m in December compared to last year, which the firm said was almost entirely due to the weather.

Its annual passenger figures fell 2.8 per cent to 103.9m, as industrial action and volcanic ash disruption led to more cancelled flights.

Shares in BAA’s parent firm, Spanish-based Ferrovial, closed three per cent up at €7.95 (£6.61).