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'Wrong amount of snow' caused Heathrow chaos

BAA chief apologises for miscalculation

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BAA chief executive Colin Matthews has apologised for the chaos at Heathrow Airport last December, which saw thousands of passengers stranded by an unforeseen depth of snow.

The BBC, which earlier brilliantly summarised that "flights were grounded at Heathrow in December due to the wrong amount of snow", but has now decided to amend part of that to "after more snow fell than anticipated", says that the BAA big cheese has been explaining himself to the House of Commons Transport Committee.

The airport apparently braced itself for 6cm of white stuff on 18 December "but got far more than that", Matthews admitted. The result was crowds of self-loading cargo milling around Heathrow with no chance of escape, and while Matthews said BAA had done "all we possibly could" for stranded souls, the inclement weather "totally overwhelmed the ability of resources at Heathrow to cope with passengers".

He offered: "I am very sorry indeed for the thousands of disrupted passengers and for the thousands of Christmas holidays affected and for the airlines and the company."

Before the red-faced BAA supremo took the stand, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic expressed their dissatisfaction at the way the fiasco was handled. The former's operations director Andrew Lord conceded the weather was "extremely severe", but that BA expected a swift closure and reopening of Heathrow's second runway.

He tutted: "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."

While BAA took a £20m hit at Heathrow because of the excess snow, it can at least offset Matthews' 2010 bonus against that, since he's announced he will not be trousering his traditional Xmas present.

The BBC has more, including the usual promises of radical improvements in future, etc, etc, right here. ®

Bootnote

The tone of this piece does indeed confirm that I was one of those affected by the cock-up, although I wisely decided not even to bother going to Heathrow, and hit the boozer instead.

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