Reply To: BA nightmare

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Expat….”Do you realise that the cost of the barrier was £440M – and that at 1982 values – over a billion these daysI”

You could not have made a stronger case for not investing in snow clearing equipment……

The fact is that at a £billion, even £10 billion, the Thames barrier provides protection from an event that would costs hundreds if not thousands of billions of pounds and is therefore a wise investment.

Heathrow may get snow once or twice a year and an event like we are having now is a once in 30 years. The costs to airlines may be £10 or £20 millions but the costs of investing in single deicing rig are £250,000 plus training and ongoing maintenance. Airlines and handling agents do invest in this equipment to cope with frosts and have strategies to deal with this. (BA ant ice overnight for example). But no matter how much they invested, the infrastructure of LHR; runways, ATC restrictions, lack of jetty served gates, etc would still cause problems.

For example de-icing in snow, freezing rain and in certain other weather can only be done with in 30mins of take off…Note take off….How many times have you taxied around LHR for longer than that?

A central de icing point in such conditions is essential and would improve over all operational performance for all airlines but the BAA have clearly decided that the reputation damage to LHR at times like this is not sufficient for them to provide such a facility.

Since T5 opened over 90% of all traffic movements take place between two runways. This causes congestion at the best of times and is why BA domestic flights departing from gate 1-9 in T5 and taking off from 09R (southerly runway) have to go towards T3 before turning back towards T5 adding 10-15 minutes to the taxi time. Common sense would suggest they use 09L (northerly runway) but the “cranford agreement” dating from the 1950’s prevents take off from this runway except in the most exceptional circumstances.

Heathrow is planned to operate at near full capacity at every hour of every day between 5am and 11.30pm. Anything that interrupts the normal flow of aircraft, be it snow, rain, sleet, wind, fog, security, systems failures or even congestion on the M4 and 25 will result in disruption and this disruption will impact BA bmi more than others due to it being their home base and due to the size and complexity of their operations.

Unless you can build an airport with multiple runways, genuine 24 hour operations, with significant spare jetty served gate capacity and a landlord who wants to run an airport and not a shopping mall, then you really do need to accept the limitations of Heathrow and hope that the days you want to travel are not affected by snow rain fog sleet high winds or a blocked runways.

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