I’m certainly not defending BAA, nor am I defending a UK Transport Minister who appears on television to explain that the situation at Heathrow is entirely understandable given the 97% capacity at which it operates, on the same day in which he reaffirms his party’s opposition to the third runway at the airport which would undoubtedly provide the contingency that is so desperately needed.
These problems are not confined to Heathrow; they’re not even necessarily worse at Heathrow than elsewhere – KLM for example have been IDBing passengers downroute as they are unable to handle them at AMS, even though technically the airport has been partially operational.
There are serious questions to be asked of all interested parties, but that includes passengers too. It’s Winter. You simply cannot and should not expect conditions and services to operate as they do in other seasons. If you book connections that are too tight; if you take a cheaper connecting service than a direct one solely to save money (as opposed to not being able to afford the direct alternative); if you travel without sufficient and appropriate supplies; clothing; funds; insurance and means of communication, and if you have not done your research on rights and obligations, then it is likely that you will experience far more stress than those who plan and prepare more dilligently.
If we want all of this to be handled by others; if we wish to develop infrastructure to offer capacity and contingency and if we want to protect ourselves generically from the worst impacts of irregular operations then we will have to vote for it and we will have to pay for it.
As it is however, it seems that we are lulled into a false sense of cheap security, provided for by tiny operator margins and short-sighted politicians.