The shambles at Heathrow
Blog Words : Paul Goldstein | 23 December

The shambles at Heathrow

People around the world – and not just travellers – will suffer from the snow fiasco at the UK's flagship airport

Right now nothing makes me, or anyone else in travel, angrier than Heathrow.

Anyone connected with this airport last weekend is or was a loser. Airlines, insurers and operators will bear the financial brunt, and yet they are without blemish. There should be no blame game as there is only one villain: airport operator BAA.

This outfit was sold piecemeal to a Spanish-owned company, and now tries to run the busiest airport in the world. They have made record profits this year and sadly only spent a nickel and dime budget on a few cans of WD40 to sort out the correctly forecasted three inches of snow on Saturday. They are accountable; their performance was woeful; their staff incompetent and the fallout catastrophic – not just for the major players, but also the less publicised ones: poor beach vendors and shop owners from Aqaba to Zanzibar who are robbed of their Christmas bonus.

Talking of Christmas windfalls, the architect of this shambles, BAA's Colin Matthews sanctimoniously stated last night that he was foregoing his festive bonus. I am sure that made everyone feel better, in the same way we feel when venal bankers have their monstrous payouts cut. In almost any other line of employment he would be sacked. There must be legislation that make these charlatans accountable for service disruption.

Stockholm has a marginally colder climate than us, yet has never closed its airport. Northern Europeans and Canadians who actually arrived here this week were asking where this mysterious snow actually was – they could not register that a three inch dusting could justify 'exceptional' circumstances. Meanwhile BAA played high jinks over its runway openings, with BA causing yet more pain. Many claim we need a third runway, but is that fitting for a third world airport ?

BAA claim they have spent £3m on investment. That miserly sum was being lost every few minutes last weekend. Yet when I turn on the radio this morning, the airport is still shamelessly and flagrantly advertising with their cloying strap line: 'Heathrow, making your journey better'!

Aircraft are strangely incongruous whilst parked, whether in the Nevada desert or stacked deep, crisp and even at Heathrow. Indeed a large part of Ryanair's success is their ability to keep their birds in the sky with minimal turnaround times. Planes are meant to soar like eagles not park like couch potatoes. And to truly butcher the eagles analogy, last weekend could be summed up by a slightly amended song line: 'Heathrow: you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.'

>