BAA’s new winter resilience programme should deliver a more reliable service to business people using London Heathrow during periods of inclement weather.
Heathrow was blighted by delays and cancellations around Christmas last year as heavy snow forced a near-shutdown of the airport, causing chaos for business passengers and tourists alike. Airport operator BAA faced severe criticism for its failure to deal with the difficult weather conditions.
But London’s busiest airport will now have more staff and equipment on hand to deal with any future bouts of bad weather under BAA’s winter resilience programme.
It will have a fleet of 185 snow clearance vehicles available this Christmas, triple the number that were available in December last year. The number of staff available to clear away snow will also be tripled, from 117 to 468 every shift.
Meanwhile, some 950 non-operational staff could be deployed to terminals during periods of disruption to assist passengers.
Heathrow chief operating officer Normand Boivin said: “Much has been done to improve Heathrow’s response to severe winter weather and there is more still to do.
“There will be lots of attention on Heathrow the next time it snows heavily. We won’t be perfect but we will be better, and we will improve each time we practise our new response plans.
“There will still be times when for safety reasons airports have to close during severe weather, but the work detailed in today’s report means that this should happen less often at Heathrow and that the airport community responds better when it does.”
Passengers can also expect to receive more accurate information about whether their flight will be operating or not. Take-off and landing slot allocator ACL, air traffic control outfit Nats and the airlines have put together a new process for managing flight cancellations to keep passengers better informed.
Some £32.4m has been earmarked to implement the measures by BAA so far.
BAA chief information officer and winter resilience programme director Philip Langsdale said: “Heathrow Airport has worked constructively with airlines, air traffic control and other parties to implement the inquiry’s recommendations, and we are all determined to make further progress. The work done so far has taken the coordination and collaboration of many different organisations.
“Our priority has been to ensure we can be prepared for extreme weather ahead of the event so that we can better inform passengers and airlines of our plans. The work achieved so far will help us to serve passengers better at Heathrow on days when there isn’t snow just as much as on those rare occasions when there is.”