Belfast Telegraph

Heathrow's 'bad' snow plan led to big freeze shutdown

Heathrow's bad weather plan just before Christmas failed due to the wrong amount of snow, the airport's boss has told MPs.

Heathrow had planned for 6cm (2.4in) of snow "but got far more than that", Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, told the House of Commons Transport Committee.

He added: "In retrospect we should have had a plan for more snow than 6cm."

Mr Matthews apologised for the disruption to passengers and airlines which saw Heathrow operations come to almost a complete halt, with thousands of Christmas travellers jamming the terminals and sleeping there too.

He said BAA did "all we possibly could" for passengers but the bad weather "totally overwhelmed the ability of resources at Heathrow to cope with passengers".

Before Mr Matthews gave evidence, the committee heard from representatives of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, who told MPs of the lack of communication between BAA and airlines during the pre-Christmas disruption.

They were particularly upset about not getting news of the reopening of the second runway on Tuesday, December 21.

Virgin chief executive Steve Ridgway told the committee: "It was pretty galling on that Tuesday to hear from the Prime Minister on the media that the runway was reopening that afternoon."

Virgin operations, safety and security director Corneel Koster said communications at times had been "absent".

He added: "We had passengers waiting to depart and hearing from the media that the airport was shut. We had passengers told not to go to a terminal, but we had passengers leaving from that terminal.

"The second runway reopened on the 21st but for a good part of that morning we were told that it would not open."

British Midland International (bmi) chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said: "We (bmi) were prepared but Heathrow was not. The airport was closed for two days and operating at two-thirds capacity for another two days, which is not good enough."