Heathrow operator launches inquiry into snow chaos
The operator of London's Heathrow airport said it had launched an external inquiry Thursday into the handling of the snow chaos that left thousands of passengers stranded just before Christmas.
Spanish-owned operator BAA announced the inquiry as Heathrow, the world's busiest airport for international passenger traffic, began to get back on track with around 90 percent of flights operating after days of cancellations.
A panel of experts from airports and airlines around the world will scrutinise the "planning, execution and recovery" surrounding the disruption at Heathrow, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said.
"The inquiry will forensically examine what went wrong at Heathrow, and look fundamentally at our ability to prepare and respond more effectively to periods of bad weather at an airport operating at its maximum capacity," he said.
"The inquiry will have complete freedom to examine the sequence of events, and to deliver recommendations for BAA to implement."
Terminals at Heathrow were turned into dormitories earlier this week as angry passengers unable to fly were forced to spend the night on luggage trays used as makeshift beds.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "frustrated" by BAA's handling of the disruption and at one point offered military assistance to the operator, which BAA declined.
Matthews said on Wednesday that he would not take his bonus for 2010.
BAA, which operates seven airports in Britain, has been owned by Spanish builder Ferrovial since 2006.
On Thursday around 200,000 passengers were expected to catch flights from Heathrow in the traditionally busy pre-Christmas period but at least 120 flights were cancelled, a spokeswoman said.
Weather conditions of recent days had left many planes and crews out of position, so further delays were possible, authorities said.
British Airways, which is allowing anyone booked until December 31 to either rebook or receive a refund, said it hoped to operate all its Heathrow long-haul services today and the "vast majority" of short-haul flights.
© 2010 AFP