BAA has announced that it is developing a £50M Heathrow resilience investment plan following an inquiry into the airport’s winter resilience.
The plan will allow Heathrow to implement all the recommendations of the Begg Winter Resilience Report which examined the factors that led to disruption at Heathrow due to the winter weather last December.
Heathrow’s planned improvements will include revised airport snow plans with new equipment, increased staff resources and training, and new systems for command and control and communication between the airport, including airlines, and passengers.
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews, who commissioned the report, said: “Following December’s disruption, we invested in new equipment, people and training to enable us to respond better to snow in future. We are now putting together a comprehensive action plan to implement all 14 Begg recommendations.”
The Begg report found that there was no single event or decision which led to the disruption experienced during the 18-23 December period. The factors which led to it included that the potential impact of the weather forecast was not fully anticipated in the days preceding the event; the clearance rate of snow was slower than required and slower than rates achieved elsewhere, and BAA’s crisis management system was invoked on Friday 17 December to deal with congestion in Terminal 5, but the response to the snow on 18 December was initially not effective.
“I am pleased to have secured agreement from the chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, British Midland International, NATS and the Civil Aviation Authority to establish a Heathrow partnership for passengers which meets regularly to publicly reinforce Heathrow’s collective commitment to make every passenger’s journey better than the last one,” Matthews said.
“If the entire Heathrow community learns from this report, and works more collaboratively to promote passengers’ interests, then this is a pivotal moment for the airport and its reputation.
“We clearly understand our role in keeping Heathrow open, unless for emergency or safety reasons, but to do that and to achieve the highest standards of passenger care, we need to work more closely and collaboratively with airlines and them with us, and all agree on the necessary training and investment.
“Heathrow is among the most congested airports in the world and the lack of spare capacity means that unlike every other British or European airport, we have literally no room to move when disruption occurs. This means that any problem, large or small, that slows down the rate of aircraft arriving at or leaving from Heathrow, will disrupt many people.”
BAA chairman Sir Nigel Rudd said: “The Board fully supports the decision to accept the recommendations in David Begg’s report and develop the executive plan.
“We are encouraging our management team to dedicate all the necessary resources and engage positively with airlines and others to ensure that extreme weather conditions are better handled next time for the sake of passengers.
“Our response to the enquiry report and our on-going commitment to making Heathrow better is reflected in our £1bn a year capital programme that is building a new Terminal 2 and modernising the airport’s existing terminals.”
The airport has already bought more equipment - today, Heathrow has 166 individual pieces of snow-clearing equipment, including sweepers, de-icers, blowers, gritters, under-wing tractors and snow removal lorries. This compares to 47 in December.
The airside operations team now has 269 people available and trained to support snow-clearing operations, compared to 117 in December.