Monday, 20 December 2010

Heathrow chaos - trying to keep a grip

It must be hell for the thousands of passengers marooned at Heathrow and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for my daughter who hopes to return from Spain to Gatwick tomorrow. But I am concerned that one of Britain’s national characteristics – self-denigration – is surfacing to no good purpose in response to the foul weather.
It is one thing to poke fun at ourselves in a self-effacing Hugh Grant sort of way but quite another to embark on a exercise of self-flagellation, because our transport system is unable to cope with the extreme conditions.
On the radio this morning I heard Heathrow’s performance compared unfavourably with that of Helsinki airport. Leaving aside that heavy snowfalls and plunging temperatures visit the Finnish capital every year, there is no meaningful comparison to be made between the two airports.
Heathrow, which is operating at almost full capacity, sees about 68 million passengers in an average year - at Helsinki it’s around 12 million, which is little more than Luton's total.
BAA – responsible for the runways and surrounding roads of most of the UK’s major airports – is part of the Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial. Even before the latest chaos there were complaints that the company seemed to regard its sites as retail outlets with runaways attached. Charges of under-investment are already current - and all sorts of investigations are going to follow in the wake of the latest crisis. I won't be surprised if BAA and the airlines too are found wanting.
But critics shouldn’t lose sight of the fact Heathrow and the UK are in good company, as the following BBC News round-up makes clear.
• France: Authorities ask airlines to cut 30% of flights from Paris's two main airports Charles de Gaulle and Orly to ease congestion
• Belgium: All departures from Brussels airport cancelled until Wednesday morning due to a lack of de-icing liquid, AFP reports
• Germany: Some 300 of 1,340 flights cancelled at Frankfurt because of problems elsewhere in Europe, airport operator Fraport says
• Netherlands: The schedule at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is suffering cancellations and delays

1 comment:

  1. That.s right GC, says Jaffa, Let us not lose sight of the fact that Mother Nature and natural disasters are still capable, even in our scientific age, of totally affecting all our lives in all sorts of unpredictable ways. We have the vanity that we believe we control our lives yet as Shakespeare remind us in "King Lear".... "We are to the Gods as flies to wanton boys. They kill us for their sport".

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What do you think? GC