Gatwick and other UK airports could face fines for snow disruptions

From an outsiders point of view it looked like a battle of the BAA and former BAA owned airports when the worst of the winter weather struck at the end of November, beginning of December.

Gatwick suffered the worst of the early snow; the former BAA owned airport struggled to clear the snow and was forced to close for the best part of three days as the snow continued to fall and flights were diverted. Meanwhile, Heathrow airport continued to operate and appeared to be winning the snow battle between the UK’s two busiest airports.

Gatwick’s plans to become the ‘London airport of choice’ were melting, unlike the tonnes of snow outside.

The battle of the snow wasn’t to go all Heathrow’s way though, as days later the airport was forced to close after six inches of snow fell leaving thousands of passengers stranded with little idea of when the airport would reopen and when they would be able to travel.

It has since been revealed in the Telegraph that Heathrow was totally unprepared for snow – the airport, which has two runways, had only 10 snowploughs compared with 14 at Gatwick with its one runway. As the Telegraph reports, the Government’s aviation minister knew about Heathrow’s inadequate winter preparations.

Hopefully, we have seen the last of such chaotic travel as the Government now appears to be looking to fine airports when passengers have their flights disrupted.

The new airport economic regulation bill could fine UK airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, for failure to prepare for adverse weather conditions.

Under current legislation, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) can only fine airports for failures such as long queues at security checks, shortage of seating, and poor cleanliness – the current maximum annual fine is just 7% of airport charges, hardly a deterrent!

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