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Heathrow boss faces snow chaos quiz

Under-fire Heathrow boss Colin Matthews is due to face questions from MPs about the snow-induced chaos at the west London airport just before Christmas.

Mr Matthews, who is chief executive of airport operator BAA, will have to explain to the House of Commons Transport Committee how Heathrow almost ground to a halt in December, with thousands of passengers camping overnight in terminals.

At the height of the chaos on Sunday December 19, Heathrow was only able to handle around 20 flights instead of around 1,300.

It was several days before full services were restored to enable passengers to complete their Christmas getaway journeys.

Prime Minister David Cameron said at the time that he was "frustrated" by BAA's handling of the situation. The company launched an external inquiry to look into the "planning, execution and recovery" surrounding the disruption.

Just before Christmas, Mr Matthews announced that he would not take his bonus for 2010.

The Transport Committee will also hear evidence from Gatwick Airport chiefs.

The West Sussex airport fared less well than Heathrow in the bad weather which started in late November but did considerably better when the second bout of snow hit in the days just before Christmas.

Gatwick has announced that it is spending £8 million to double its fleet of snow-clearing equipment from 47 vehicles to 95.

The MPs will also hear from representatives of Glasgow Airport and from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic - two of the many airlines caught up in the pre-Christmas disruption. Next Monday, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is due to appear before the committee to give his views on how transport systems fared during the bad weather.

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