Snowy airports

In December the United Kingdom was covered in snow. As snow goes it was not as bad as the conditions that prevail in some parts of Europe every winter.  Virtually every other northern European country has had such snowfall most years and copes well. Their airports are kept open. In the United Kingdom Heathrow Airport closed down because snow fell.

The airport’s operators, BAA which is owned by Ferrovial simply did not invest sufficient money in snow clear equipment and de icing equipment. The airports operators also did not have sufficient antifreeze.

This had three major consequences:-

  1. Passengers had their journeys cancelled or heavily disrupted before Christmas, which chaos and lack of information at the airport
  2. There was a knock on effect at all major European and some international airports because flights from Heathrow did not arrive and aircraft therefore could not go on the next journey from those airports
  3. Great disadvantage and loss was suffered by the economy of the United Kingdom.

Some might argue that the flight cancellations helped the environment. However when you take into account the thousands of wasted journeys, the futile waste of energy in attempting to pursue journeys all over Europe, i doubt if the overall emissions savings were significant.

The ultimate owner of Heathrow, Ferrovial is in the business of making money, not supporting the desires of air passengers to travel or the needs of other European airports or the British economy. They failed to invest properly in the equipment that is needed at Heathrow because they deemed the risk to be worth taking.

Of course an airport operator must act in the interests of its business but where the business is of significant national importance, the operator must be bound by rules, enforceable by fines, to ensure that it keeps the airport open in all conditions.

I think that the people of the united Kingdom are now expecting the government to ensure that this debacle never happens again; that may need legislation, but unless we permit our economy to be run by multinational businesses, that legislation is long overdue.


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