Reply To: Chaos at T5…now

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I really don’t understand this “culture of blame” which persists everywhere.

In years gone by, people would have been considerably more resourceful, and wouldn’t have sat about moaning and complaining. Sometimes there simply are events beyond anyone’s control which necessitate a change of strategy.

Safety should always come first, and moving a loaded 747 around in close proximity to other aircraft – even on the ground – is risky at the best of times, and even more so in the snow.

My own travel plans we interfered with on Friday, but I got home in the end (thanks to BA!) and BA took the decision (criticised by some on here!) to cancel flying on Saturday which ensured many people were at least able to stay home/downroute without getting trapped in transit.

It’s not a perfect situation. It’s minus 10 where I am now – I don’t recall seeing temperatures so low for more than a decade.

So let’s not pretend these are typical circumstances for which the simple addition of some different managers would allow immediate resolution of the matter. It would not.

I have seen very effective management, using innovative and newly developed approaches, by younger people (and we are not talking about children here!). Age (beyond a certain level of experience) has little to do with ability to manage.

You criticise,. but it’s among the best of airline websites. It won more awards only a few months ago:

and copes well under pressure (as it demonstrated during the summer Volcano and earlier strike action). However, when key people cannot even get into work to update data etc. needed to make those key decisions, we should all have a modicum of patience and not throw our toys; with a changing situation it is difficult to plan which flights will run and which not, even a week ahead of today due to both people and planes being out of position.

BA (against the prevailing mood!) planned to cancel its flying programme, and has accommodated many thousands of displaced people at its own expense (though really travel insurance should be used in the first instance).

Sure, some things could have been done better, I’m certain, but it is not just BA which is suffering, and you simply cannot slate the whole operation as appalling without balancing that assessment with some of the good decisions – such as the cancellation of the flying programme – which have minimised the more unpleasant aspects of disruption. Most every other airline cancelled flights from LHR this weekend, but of course the media focusses on BA is it operates proportionately more flight from LHR.

BAA has indeed failed to plan properly – and I suspect this is indeed more than simply poor planning, but systemic underinvestment. Having said that, the runways are clear, it is the stand de-icing which is causing the difficulties. I don’t think they have an effective plan for that, and Willie Walsh was right to tear a strip off BAA’s CEO on Friday when the idiotic Andrew “Charlie” Teacher suggested on Today that it was the responsibility of the airline to de-ice planes; it just isn’t as simple as that.

BAA appears to have kept people virtual prisoners inside T3, refusing them access to airside when it was clear there were no flights running, and that sort of poor communication and planning is unforgiveable.

In BAA’s defence, the temperatures are exceptional for LHR, five inches of snow fell in an hour on Saturday, which is now icing up stands, the airport is totally at capacity, and simply doesn’t have the land footprint to move aircraft around easily. If you put such circumstances in Frankfurt or Amsterdam (both of which have suffered similar disruption despite not having these issues) then it would not have been a dissimilar situation.

BA expects to operate the “vast majority” of flights from London City and London Gatwick, which does suggest that these airports (both owned by the same consortium) were either better prepared, or more fortunate in terms of the amount of snow which fell. Both benefit from not having the capacity issues to the extent that LHR does.

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