A report by MPs into the transport chaos caused by snow in December has slammed Heathrow operator BAA.
The Commons Transport Committee report, released on Thursday, follows weeks of hearings and draws on evidence from passengers, airlines and others in the industry.
Louise Ellman MP, chair of the committee, said: “It is clear Heathrow was totally unprepared to recover from any major incident and that its owners underinvested in winter equipment.”
Heathrow operator BAA rejected the criticism, while welcoming the report’s conclusion that the government should invest more.
A BAA spokesman said: “We reject the committee’s impression that Heathrow was ‘totally unprepared’. This is contrary to the findings of the Begg Enquiry which found BAA had ‘demonstrated its ability to respond well to earlier weather events’ and also contrary to evidence from the airspace closure caused by volcanic ash in 2010.”
The Transport Committee report makes a series of recommendations and calls for government investment to minimise future disruption.
Ellman said: “Every airport operator must be pushed to plan properly for bad weather so people are not left stranded and without even basic supplies in airport terminals.”
The report suggests the government oversee planning for snow-induced chaos. But it also argues airport operators should be able to reclaim the cost of looking after stranded passengers “when airlines fail to discharge their responsibility”.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said he was disappointed the recommendations did not go further. “The world’s busiest airport was shut for a prolonged period and this must not be allowed to happen again,” he said.
BAA said: “We are making progress with Heathrow’s airlines on delivering a better deal for passengers during periods of disruption. Last month we agreed a process for publishing revised flight schedules in the event of disruption. We have also allocated up to £50 million to invest in improving the airport’s resilience during severe weather events.”
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