Airlines warn of 'severe delays' during Olympics

Leading UK airlines have warned of "severe delays and disruption" during the London Olympics if heightened security measures combine with poor weather.

British Airways, BMI, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic called for "urgent action" to prevent delays in a letter to transport secretary Justine Greening. They say potential chaos can be avoided if airlines and controllers at the National Air Traffic Services can operate differently from normal during the Games.

The carriers also raise concerns about increased airspace traffic caused by non-scheduled flights and business jets. They want to prioritise scheduled flights ahead of other aircraft.

In their letter to Greening, the airlines say: "The industry believes there is a significant risk of severe delay and disruption at all of London's major airports unless urgent action is taken." They insist a failue to respond "would be fool-hardy and reckless".

The letter, published ahead of a meeting with transport bosses this Thursday (March 22), warns: "Time is running out to ensure that any changes to procedures and the appropriate training is in place prior to the Games and we urge both DfT (Department for Transport) and CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to support and agree to the proposals that the industry, including NATS, have put forward.

"Failure to respond leaves the UK vulnerable to the type of major disruption that will cause significant reputational damage and would be fool-hardy and reckless."

A DfT spokeswoman told the Press Association: "The government is committed to delivering safe and efficient transport services for the 2012 London Olympic Games, and aviation is clearly a major part of this. That is why we have already announced a range of special measures designed to protect scheduled air services from disruption during the Olympics period.

"We are confident that the majority of these additional issues have now been addressed and we look forward to discussing them with the airlines concerned at a meeting next week.

“We continue to work closely with the CAA, NATS and the industry to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum."

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