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Should airports be fined for bad weather disruptions?

10:25 UK time, Sunday, 26 December 2010

The government has said it wants to introduce new powers to fine airports for disruption. Should airports be fined for failure of service?

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has told the Sunday Times it was unacceptable that BAA won't be punished for failure to provide service.

BA cancelled 2,000 flights over a six-day period and Heathrow airport was almost totally closed due to snow and ice. For many air travellers, that meant not just ruined travel plans, but a ruined Christmas holiday.

Do you think airports should be punished for disruptions? Will economic sanctions make them better prepared in the future?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.


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  • Comment number 1.

    It is beyond pathetic that airports here in the UK are so underprepared for bad weather. Of course they should be fined.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yes, but watch the cost of air travel rising to pay for it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well yes, the people who's travel has been delayed or cancelled should receive compensation. Especially at this time of year.

  • Comment number 4.

    There needs to be a thorough overall of all consumer law. In every area of commerce, from prices,to confusion, to denial of service, is now totally unsatisfactory for the customer.

    Regarding airport operators, as has been pointed out, if they rent out the shops and cafes air side, they have every reason to want you to be delayed. In fact, we will never be able to arrive at the airport and get onto a plane without a two hour wait until something is done about this.

    There need to be legally binding service agreements for everything you buy. The old opnes have ben totally circumvented by new ways of selling and aggressive, greedy, suppliers.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hang on from what I saw on the news most airports functioned reasonably well or had no problems. Only Heathrow was a total mess. Whether BAA should be fined I don't know. Are BAA actually fit to run an airport? that's another question.

  • Comment number 6.

    This country should be a lot better prepared for tall this snow the government cannot blame the airports when they themselves dont help.
    Its time this country looked to how snowbound countries cope with months on end of snow its time for them to learn how other countries cope with hardly any disruption.

  • Comment number 7.

    There are Airports closer to the Arctic Circle that have better track records with getting people out on time. The technology exists to vastly increase the reliability of the Airport's runways in Winter. Failing to utilize that technology has seriously disrupted their customer's lives. An Airplane ticket is like a contract you purchase space on an airplane and expect that plane to take you where it is intended. If it fails to do that in a reasonable time or without adequate compensation they're in breach of that contract.

    If a company routinely fails to keep it's obligations to it's customers it should be fined. Doesn't matter if it's an Airport or a Grocery store. The Airport managers aren't just ruining people's holidays they're giving the country a bad reputation and destroying any chance for repeat business.

  • Comment number 8.

    No, of course not. It's not against the law to provide shoddy service. If it was, governments would be paying fines all the time!

    However, they ought to have a duty of care towards those who are stuck when adverse weather or other factors (such as volcanic ash) prevent travel. They should ensure that people who cannot travel are fed and accommodated until it is possible to get wherever they want to go.

    As for the shoddy service, airlines and passengers alike need to decide which airports they are going to use in the future.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is typical of our society today we need someone to blame for all our woes. It's not the airports that bring the bad weather. If compensation is to be paid, pay it out of the money we pay on green taxes. It has to be the biggest con ever.

  • Comment number 10.

    Does this mean yet another investigation will be instigated, costing the taxpayer yet more money? Of course the operators who have purchased licences to operate all forms of public transport should be encouraged to prepare better for inclement conditions.
    At our local international airport, serving the capital city of Scotland, the management were more interested recently in developing the ability to rake in more money in the form of shop rents and drop off charges for arriving passengers, than they were in preparation for the inevitable bad weather. The resulting aiport closures were utterly avoidable and no excuses will repair the damage which has been done.
    Management Ineptitude, avarice, and prioritising shareholder profit over public service may yet prove to be the downfall of BAA, and others of their ilk.

  • Comment number 11.

    At 10:57am on 26 Dec 2010, Red Robbo wrote:
    Yes, but watch the cost of air travel rising to pay for it.


  • Comment number 12.

    Airline and airports have a lot of problems. but you can't blame them for the weather.

    How about a return of our taxes if the goverment doesn't keep the road clear during the snow storm.

    Makes as much sense as blaming the airlines for the weather

  • Comment number 13.

    As I understand it, the Government has no ownership or control over Heathrow, no ownership or control over any of the airlines flying into or out of it, it did not require or request that any of the passengers passing through the airport travel as most were, I'm sure, leisure travelers.

    No, the airport shouldn't be fined for what was basically an extreme weather event. Unless there is also a mechanism to claim compensation from the failure for the same reasons, of transport infrastructure they do basically own, like the road and rail network (and yes, the Government does basically own and pay for the rail infrastructure).

    Its nonsense to think Heathrow somehow didn't do everything in their power to keep things running - this has cost their business dear - adding a fine is just a political grandstanding. Travelers should have travel insurance and airlines are legally obliged to look after their passengers in these situations.

  • Comment number 14.

    If a government with enough spare money for several wars, an EU Country bailout and a world cup bid can't justify spending enough money to keep the roads and rail working, how on earth can they fine BAA for doing the same? The BAA CEO didn't take a bonus - that's better than the bank's reaction to their crisis. Also, it shows great ignorance about the amount of concrete that has to be cleared to allow aircraft to not only land but to move about and park; when it's continually snowing. In reality, I've have found that it's the airlines who abandon their passengers without blankets, food and drink and it's the airport operator who ends up trying to look after people stranded.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well if we are to fine airports, then how about Local Authorities for failing to clear roads, or teachers for failing to turn up for work, or politicians when they miss lead us. if you booked an holiday and it rained all the time would you fine the holiday operator, the list can go on. The question is not should they be fined, as that seems to be the stock answer from all governments when they don't have a clue, but how in the future they can overcome the bad weather. Remember if an aeroplane crashed because of the bad weather wouldn't there be an outcry.

  • Comment number 16.

    Not sure of the benefit of a "fine" - at the end of the day it will be the passenger who will have to pay this fine, either through decreased service with longer lines for say security, or through increased fares because their airline is charged more for landing fees.

    Yes, and I think the "green taxes" on flying are a con.

  • Comment number 17.

    What an utter load of rubbish and just goes to prove that this country is being run by amateurs who simply play to the crowds in order to make them look good whilst refusing to accept any responsibility themselves.

    Under these proposals would that also mean that the MOD can be find because the weather prevented our brave soldiers from returning home in time for Christmas with their loved ones because Brize Norton was affected by snow?

    Will it also mean we can fine the Government, the Highways Agency, Councils and Network Rail for failing to keep our roads and rail free from floods and snow and what about the Ferry services will they be fined for not letting their ships sail in stormy seas.

    Get real, its called weather and having see the efforts it takes to keep an operational fighter airfield open in such weather then those passenger who support these plans need to be prepared for a hike in airport fees and hence fares.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think that it might be a better idea to revoke their licence to operate. Introducing fines which will ultimately be passed on to passengers, just means cash will flow from passengers to H.M. revenue.

    Airports are of incredible strategic importance to any country. Having them closed is equivalent to blockading sea ports. The idea that they can be run by (often foreign) commercial companies without performance guarantees, is frankly dangerous and absurd.

    It's simple, if BAA and the others can't do the job, either take the airports back into public ownership or find a company that can run them.

  • Comment number 19.

    This is just another example of the Government looking for new ways to harvest cash. It could not possibly improve anything at the airports.

    Attaching financial penalties for events which are out of the control of the airport management would be a recipe for disaster. You could practically guarantee some heartless executive would have planes taking off in the middle of a tornado to save a couple of pounds.

    However, If they are introduced, how about extending them to the Government for delays caused by the failure to deal with the effects of bad weather on the Roads Mr Hammond?

  • Comment number 20.

    Typical, Nice to see this Government is as media led as the old one. What percentage of the population were inconvinienced by the airport closures compared that to the percentage inconvinienced by the chaos on the roads. How about fining the government for the total lack of preparedness on the roads? Its no more than a very clever bit of "deflecting the focus/blame" The EU are also complaining, I suppose because they could not all fly home from Brussels, That airport was closed because the trucks carrying deicer could not get to the airport due to the roads. whats the answer? blame the airport.....

  • Comment number 21.

    17. At 11:20am on 26 Dec 2010, RonC wrote:

    What an utter load of rubbish and just goes to prove that this country is being run by amateurs who simply play to the crowds in order to make them look good whilst refusing to accept any responsibility themselves.
    Remarkably similar to the previous administration.

  • Comment number 22.

    Fining Airports is crazy, they don't cause problems on purpose....does this mean the government will also fine Councils for roads, and Train companies for not clearing lines??

    If Airports are threathened with fines, they will put contingency plans into place, but who will pay? Answer....the public!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Fine? Quite possibly.

    But, how typical is this? Whenever we get snow, the proverbial everything comes to a standstill in Britain. I bumped into friend earlier this year who's working in Moscow. Apparently, there's a standstill for a "couple of days" and then everything gets "back to normal".

    What a good excuse to emigrate!!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    12. At 11:14am on 26 Dec 2010, MagicKirin wrote:
    Airline and airports have a lot of problems. but you can't blame them for the weather.

    How about a return of our taxes if the goverment doesn't keep the road clear during the snow storm.

    Makes as much sense as blaming the airlines for the weather

    A very rational and common sense view that won't appeal to Government on the grounds.

    If they fine themselves there is no pecuniary benefit to the Treasury.

    It will appeal to them on the gounds that privatise all the roads as soon as possible and someone else is to blame for that too and more fines = more income.

    Just a thought was the private M6 toll road kept free of snow and running while all around it ground to a halt? If not there is another fine.

  • Comment number 25.

    Sounds like “don’t do as I do, do as I say” at work here!

    We should also fine the Government, the Highways Agency, Councils and Network Rail for the same!

    Smacks of a showmanship by a bunch of amateurs trying to divert attention away from their own failures.

    Watch out they will probably sneak out some other bad news under this smoke screen.

    And lets face it, we will end up paying.

  • Comment number 26.

    People should just go back to suing God. It's the only way He'll learn...

  • Comment number 27.

    Seeing as our weather is not as fixed as any other snowy country, especially the ones which have their snow for longer than a month, I don't see why our airports should be penalised. Granted, we've had serious snow for the last few years, but this is the first white Christmas Southern England has experienced in a good ten or fifteen years. It's not fair to compare a country with a such random weather to places like Finland where it snows on the dot for the good few months each year. We don't even know if it's even beneficial to purchase equipment to keep the airport open because the chances are it wont snow again.

  • Comment number 28.

    2. At 10:57am on 26 Dec 2010, Red Robbo wrote:

    Yes, but watch the cost of air travel rising to pay for it.

    Absolutely right.
    The government will not pay out but rather see it as potential revenue, the shareholders and investors must not lose out. Airlines will pass on any additional charges so additional costs will have to be met by passengers. I have great sympathy for travellers losing out but compensation will also have to come from other passengers. No body else will lose out.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don`t think they should be fined for disruptions due to bad weather, however they should be held legally responsible for the welfare of passengers made to wait at the airport for days on end. The trouble with this government is the only answer they have to these problems is fines and not constructive solutions.

  • Comment number 30.

    28. At 11:39am on 26 Dec 2010, North Briton wrote:
    2. At 10:57am on 26 Dec 2010, Red Robbo wrote:

    Yes, but watch the cost of air travel rising to pay for it.

    Absolutely right.
    The government will not pay out but rather see it as potential revenue, the shareholders and investors must not lose out. Airlines will pass on any additional charges so additional costs will have to be met by passengers. I have great sympathy for travellers losing out but compensation will also have to come from other passengers. No body else will lose out.
    Can't see anything wrong with that. After all people are the ones who want to travel.

  • Comment number 31.

    I thought New Labour had lost power at the last election. Just lately all we hear are New Labour solutions. What the blazes is the point of fining everyone and every organisation for everything when all they will do is pass the costs on to the end-user?

    We need a radical overhaul of our basic business philosophy in the UK. The customers are not here to be ripped off interminably and used as cash cows for a handful of multi-millionaires. We need to return to businesses offering something called "service" whereby, when things go wrong, they actually put themselves out to help. It's no good offering some pathetic compensation, we need the promised goods or services actually to be delivered.

    All we ever get in the UK is spokespersons for "business" endlessly whining and moaning about how every single wretched thing that happens in the universe "costs" them something. Tough! It costs the rest of us, too, and we aren't making profits from it - get used to it, do your job, provide the goods/services and stop whining about costs all the time. If you don't like it, don't go into business. If you go into business, take responsibility for that business.

    Now we need a law to enforce that simple philosophy. Clearly what we have now fails to do so.

    Incidentally, isn't it interesting to note that all the "consumer protection" legislation churned out over the last few decades has actually resulted in far poorer service than we used to get in the old days?

  • Comment number 32.







  • Comment number 33.

    I'm not sure about this - surely the airports lose shed loads if no planes are taking off & landing? Then they have to provide for he hoardes that are stranded there. Isn't that enough incentive?
    Logical conclusion is the government fining itself when trunk roads aren't open, and Local Authorities when more minor roads aren't? Then, what about fining football teams when they have to postpone matches because the terraces and entrances are too dangerous - they are private property, as are the airports.

  • Comment number 34.




  • Comment number 35.

    Yes they should be fined aswell as the councils who fail to keep our roads open enabling us to get to work.There is no difference.People not getting to work costs this nation much more than the priviledged not getting away for a xmas break.

  • Comment number 36.

    As long as :-

    1. Football clubs are fined if a match is called off from a frozen pitch.
    2. Department of Transport is fined if it rains too hard & speed limits are reduced to 86mph - that being the minimum that most drivers need.
    3. Department of transport fined if cars have to keep more than 3 yards from the vehicle in front in dense fog.
    4. Supermarkets fined if folk can't buy 3450000000 calories for the next week's grocery shopping.
    5. HMRC fined for stealing too much tax, losing millions of people's records.
    6. Ex pm's fined for illegal wars & bankrupting the economy.
    7. Politicians fined for lying.

    Based on the above, so much revenue would be collected, Income Tax could be abolished!

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Britain is incompetent in most things, in spite of our cherished universities. Why? Fines won't change anything, it's inbred incompetance and love of profit. Conferences, meetings ,consultations...we do those well...just the catering bit! I have no expectations of anything working properly for long in this country. National Express Coaches should get accolades,they really work very well (personal, driver pride i think). Now, more seriously ,could we have a HYS on the re-introduction of the death penalty (without the mention of the emotive 'hanging' word please!). I believe that a referendum on this issue is the single thing that would make a government very popular for a long, long time.

  • Comment number 39.

    36. At 11:55am on 26 Dec 2010, W Fletcher wrote:

    Politicians fined for lying.

    Yes they must but Who will fine them ? me and you ?

    Any country educating some extremist should be fined .

    Any country invading other without good reason should be fined.

    I should be fined for informal writing here sorry my English is not good.

    Armani Pashtun

  • Comment number 40.

    Political clowns and bureaucrats trying do divert attention from their own incompetence. I just love how these motormouths are spouting off as soon as someone else is to blame and the TV cameras are on hand.
    Fine the airports? Okay, but only after politicians and bureaucrats can be held financially responsible for all the damage done through legislating and enforcing their laws. And I mean their own salary and wealth, not taxpayer funds, ok?

  • Comment number 41.

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! The witterings of politicians (sigh). Whimsical bunch, aren't they? Why not fine God for inconveniencing us mortals with this appalling cold. I can't even drive on our side streets. Who do we fine for that?

    Look, any punishment should be in the shared compensation given to passengers for the disruption. Political burblings might sound nice but the simple fact is that safety has to come first or the politicos will next be fining the airlines for unsafe practices.

    And who do they fine if freak weather occurs during a flight?

  • Comment number 42.

    How can it be justified, I mean it's the weather and you haven't conquered it?

  • Comment number 43.

    Only if the government is to be fined for the parlous state of the roads and railways at the same time.

    What utter rot to say that Heathrow should have been better prepared when rails froze, roads became impassable, footpaths because ice rinks, heating oil soared in price and air ambulances had to be used in place of the regular vehicles. Two-faced nonesense that will help no-one to achieve anything.

  • Comment number 44.

    I reckon the thousands who turned up for flights knowing the airport was fubarred should be fined, for stupidity, I wouldn't expect to fly in horrendous conditions let alone turn up at the airport, then again most of these travelers will be planning on the compensation culture the western world is famed for nowadays to make a killing over their cancelled cheap flight+ several hotel nights & meals or the "trauma and stress" of roughing it for a day or two waiting to see if they can get on another plane. Served them right imo.

  • Comment number 45.

    Depends on the circumstances. You cannot perfectly prepare for every bad weather or other God given situation. I fear this is as much about our compensation obsessed culture as an attempt to redress culpability. Individuals have to take some element of responsibility. People continued to turn up at airports in their thousands although warned of severe flight delays & cancellations.

  • Comment number 46.

    What absolute nonsense. If you want retribution for an airport being unable to function because of lack of equipment you have to go after the company that owns it. That company is a business just like any other and if it fails then it is up to the customers to go elsewhere. In the case of Heathrow you have to go after the bank that owns BAA. That bank has been told repeatedly that the airport is not fully equipped with the ancillary kit needed to clear snow.
    If the government want too use a big, big lever to make the company comply then get the CAA to withdraw the airports licence until it does.
    Or, should we blame labour for ignoring all expert advice when they approved the sale of BAA to a shaky European bank.

  • Comment number 47.

    There are several problems with this knee-jerk reaction to the problems. Firstly, determining the fault for a cancellation – is it the airport that failed to keep runways clear or the airline that failed to de-ice the airplane or both. You need both activities to take place for a safe take-off. Secondly, were the BAA problems unusual? Look across Europe and you see the weather has caused problems in most countries badly hit by snow. The most badly affected are typically the airports running close to capacity like Heathrow, since they don’t have free time in their schedules to de-ice without cancelling flights. Lastly we must ask ourselves if we, the passengers, are prepared to pay the price of running airports below capacity so they can better serve us when the go wrong? The loss of income from running at lower capacity along with any fine will be passed back on to us in the form of higher fares. So think twice before clamouring for fines.

  • Comment number 48.

    It should be pointed out that there were a large number of European airports closed because they too were over whelmed by snow. Even the highly efficient Germans had to shut some airports, and yes, they had passengers whinging too. Typically our media has implied that Heathrow was the only airport effected.

  • Comment number 49.

    "Should airports be fined for bad weather disruptions"? is the HYS question.

    Perhaps that fine should be enforced and held over in legal terms? Airports have to invest in improvements equal to the fine? If the same problems occur then the fine is payable. BAA, as a private company, certainly has an unfortunate 'history'.

    Plus, there is the ludicrous situation of non-co-cordination, or effective collaboration between the Civil Aviation Authorty, the Ministry of Transport, BAA and all airline companies. This fragmentation appears to be the root of majority of the problems?

    Unless all of the above work together - this will certainly happen again!

  • Comment number 50.

    So this Government want to fine airports for the severe weather disruption that has hit us of late. OK, lets see, Our roads are at a stand still also causing disruption to supply distributors and people travelling by car and other transport means, so does this mean the Government should be fined also for this disruption through the severe weather conditoions as well. In the past we used to have weather conditions like this each year and the roads where kept open by work men with shovels and spades from the backs of a lorry's, but now, all that has changed due to climatic change. for a while,we only had snow every six years are so, so it wasn't cost effective to have these very costley machines standing idle for all that time, so that is why we are now faced with the condition we are in today. If this is going to be the normal weather trend from now on, then by all means buy these machines and have them on standbye, don't start issuing threats to airlines due to a natural occurence.

  • Comment number 51.

    People who make commercial decisions to operate public services with the minimum of staff and the minimum investment in safety net provision for occurrences such as bad weather need to get feedback where it hurts - in the pocket - otherwise they will continue to take those same decisions in the future, and be rewarded with fat bonuses to boot.

    Welcome to capitalism: for all the blather about "customer focus", the bottom line is the ONLY thing that counts.

    (Whether a fine is the best means to do it is another matter.)

  • Comment number 52.

    Sounds like the pollyticians need to remind us they're still there (having screwed up the country for which they think the public might imagine they'd done a bunk). They're obviously trying to get us to like them again, sounding off on the side of the public against the air services.

    But if they really want to do something useful, why not get down to Heathrow or the railways clearing snow and ice? Make a change from polishing the seats of their skirts or trousers on the benches of Westminter and just uttering nonsenses.

  • Comment number 53.

    Can we stop looking for someone to blame all the time.
    We have had unprecedented, record breaking, weather, earlier than usual and very sudden. Of course people were not prepared for it.
    Other countries have much more predictable weather, they can predict the cold snap to within a week, of course they are better prepared.
    I am sure we would all complain if airports, councils, etc., etc., spent money on preparations that only get used once in a blue moon. If this happens regularly, yes, they should be more prepared, but as yet, allow them to be as surprised as everyone else.

  • Comment number 54.

    No no no no!! Yes BAA was guilty of shambolic conduct, but if the government fines them, do you think BAA will:

    a) Allow their shareholders to be punished by losing money, or
    b) Take the fines into consideration in their next Airport tax hike?

    Yes, (b). That means that the airport using public will end up paying the fines, not BAA shareholders. So once the whole thing is followed through, this just ends up as another goverment stealth tax that YOU are going to pay, or at perhaps make your next foreign holiday unaffordable!

  • Comment number 55. powers to fine airports for disruption.

    And where will the airports get the money from to pay the fines? By putting up the charges to their customers (the airlines). And where will the airlines get their money from - us, in increased charges.

    Brilliant - thank you.

  • Comment number 56.

    Yeah they should face fines train companies too these are priavte companies who operate at huge profits yet fail to prepare for cold winters they should not be allowed to get away with this.

  • Comment number 57.

    If they fine the airports, the airports will pass the cost onto the airlines, who in turn will pass the cost onto us.

    Ludicrous as it seems, we'll just end up paying more for the delays we suffered.

    So, unless they can find some cast-iron way to stop the airports passing the costs on (which I doubt), I'd rather they didn't levy fines that I'll just end up paying somewhere down the line.

  • Comment number 58.

    everyone who thinks this is a good idea won't mind payine for all the snowploughs etc that will only be needed for 2 or 3 days a year?

    or indeed, paying the inflated prices needed to cover the cost of any fines?

    every single penny the operators get comes from the customers, you add to the overheads and you think this will come out of their profits? not a chance; everything, from a bottle of water to a first class flight will rise in price.

  • Comment number 59.

    How fantastic...the government will reap the benefits of the fines, yet the people impacted by BAA's failures will now have to fight to reclaim the thousands paid for their dream holidays's. Insurance companies and tour operators are all able to hide behind "force majeure" clauses in their terms and it's the people that the government wants to "kick start" the economy that will bear the brunt of the failures of last weekend !

  • Comment number 60.

    If the government fine BAA for the disruption to air travelers what about the disruption to road travelers. Isnt the government responsible for the road networks.Ho Ho Ho they might fine themselves

  • Comment number 61.

    Naivety is to believe that any fine would hurt the airport administration, instaed of the passanger's pocket...

  • Comment number 62.

    Should airports be fined for bad weather disruptions?
    The government has said it wants to introduce new powers to fine airports for disruption. Should airports be fined for failure of service?

    Yes, Of course they should, look at the money BAA has made over the years, most of course seemingly paid to those at the very top in huge salary increases that are way beyond their positions or performances, on top of which are the even huger Bonuses to those at the top.
    But it is not the BAA itself that should bear the brunt of the cost of any fines, it is the senior executives and managers who should foot the bill - it is after all they who are responsible for the appaling mess whilst lining their pockets.

    The following is from the BBC news :-
    London's Heathrow Airport faced criticism last week when it closed snow-hit runways, stranding thousands. Aviation minister Theresa Villiers said an airport should be fined when it "does let passengers down and doesn't prepare properly for severe weather".

    A spokesperson from the Department for Transport said it was "considering options" for new legislation. "The Government is committed to reforming the way airports are regulated, putting passengers at the very heart of how they are run," the spokesman added.

    Service failures:

    Ms Villiers said ministers wanted to "give the regulator power to fine the airport where it does let passengers down and doesn't prepare properly for severe weather conditions". She added: "We want to make sure that airports are doing their very best to prepare for severe weather conditions. "They need to perform properly and they need to prepare properly." Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told the Sunday Times there should be an "economic penalty for service failure". In the interview, Mr Hammond said it was unacceptable that BAA would face no punishment under the current system for the recent chaos at Heathrow.
    Yes, all of the above is what should happen to a service that lets passengers down.

    Just when is the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond of this Shambolic Coalition Government going to wake up and realise just how many people have been, and are still being affected by the totally appalling services on the railway network provided by Network Rail, who are never prepared for anything – apart from telephone number bonuses at the top, and for what might I ask?

    As Network Rail who are still receiving double the subsidy that British Rail was receiving, just where is that money going, as we have all seen from all the various high profile train crashes not very much – if any – has gone into proper maintenance carried out by properly trained and qualified maintenance engineers – which was at the heart of the British Rail infrastructure – even then British Rail had been deliberately starved of any investment by the then conservative government for a number of years before it was privatised – which is probably one of the reasons why various Transport Ministers over the last years have used every excuse in the book and not in the book to refuse public enquiries over these train crashes – Too many truths would come out into the open - possibly resulting in writs being served for billions of pounds on the former and present Executive Directors of Railtrack now Network Rail, Varsity and Balfore Beaty, not to mention former Ministers of Transport and at least one (relatively recent) Prime Minister.

    There is, Mr Hammond, also a total lack of coordination from the councils on keeping Britain going on the roads last winter and this winter too, the councils get more than enough to maintain the road networks from council taxes that have gone up over 300% since the introduction of the ‘poll tax’.

    The BAA, like Network Rail and it seems, the vast majority of Council Chief Executives and associated higher management have all been paying themselves huge salary increases which are far from commensurate with their positions – or indeed their qualifications and performance in many cases, on top of which all these organisation are lead by a Bonus Culture at the top – no matter what appalling service the public receive – it is the bonuses that seem to take precedent every time.

    Untill this Bonus culture at the very top is brought to a halt, the continued ripping off of the public will continue. Thatchers 'Gravy train of Greed' is still doing very nicely thank you very much!

    The Power of Greed blinds all to Everything other than the Greed itself.

  • Comment number 63.

    ..this is a job for Thunderbird 2, with it's mobile hanger.. ("I hope that it's 'The Mole' this week dad"). Five...four... three... two...err.. we seem to have created a world where a lot of people need a change of scene at Christmas! Maybe that's why the world is in such a mess...and they want me to use energy(light!!)saving bulbs and a bottle bank, whilst we have a massive, so called, carbon footprint created by lots of me.. me.. me... nomadic beings , probably all studying the environment? An arrogant and ignorant generation indeed, that doesn't seem to remember that the earth has been warming up and down since it was created..primary school stuff.. Ice Ages and all that....wanna buy a new 150 watt 'pearl'..bayonet fitting? No questions asked ?

  • Comment number 64.

    I have already made one comment on this subject but the more I think of the stupidity of this Ministers proposal the more it angers me. If this is the quality of person we have running our country then heaven helps us.

    Has she got any grasp of reality? Has she any idea of logistics that would be needed to beat the sort of weather that has just hit this country?

    As I said previously I fully understand the amount of time and money it takes to keep an operational fighter airfield open where I can assure you that general safety of personnel comes a very poor second to need to be able to launch operational aircraft.

    RAF airfields are only a fraction the size of airports like Heathrow and unlike the civilian work force the RAF personnel who man such operations can be made to work until they drop and are confined to camp whereas for the logistics to work at airports the workers themselves have to be in place to start with. So will the airports be able to pass the fine down to the highways agency, councils and railways because their workers are unable to get to the airport in the first place.

    If an RAF plane skids of the runway then that’s operational necessity but what about a plan full of passengers who will take responsibility for that or will they propose another punitive fine to be introduced.

    Total utter nonsense. The minister should be sacked.

  • Comment number 65.

    Another tax? Pass the cost of the fines on to the air passengers?
    Make them give the money back to the passengers, or is that too simple?

  • Comment number 66.

    A typical ill thought out Knee jerk reaction, I thought we had enough from Labour, but it seems that this bunch are no different.
    A few seconds of reflection will reveal that a business run on the Private Management ethos can no more copw with the unexpected than a Nationalised Industry. The basic problem is pathetic and short sighted management, shortermism taken to extremes. We burned Natural gas to provide electricity whilst failing to build new power stations for the future. We have failed for 60 yeas to update the water supply system, the same with the Railways. We even failed to do anything about the well predicted Pensions crisis.
    Last year it was a Highways Authority that forgot the lessons of history, and cut back salt stocks to save a few pounds in the short term. this year it is a Privatly Owned Airport, caught by the same failed mangement ethos.
    Fining a company for failure is pointless, the customers will do that by buying elsewhere. But then who in Government has any real experience of running anything successfully?

  • Comment number 67.

    If airports are being considered unacceptable under the adverse winter conditions then so should the government/councils performance clearing uk roads and providing services. There is a saying "people in glass houses shouldnt throw stones"

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 has the answer, pay the comp directly to the people held up by the delay

  • Comment number 69.

    BAA deserve to be fined
    It is clear to all to see that they are trying to run Heathrow on the cheap and didn't spend enough on winter weather machines. We have all sat in those budget meetings when some 'bright spark' comes up with an 'idea' to help profitability.
    They took a gamble and lost. They should now suffer the consequences

  • Comment number 70.

    What another wonderfully stupid about more accurate weather forecasting or is that another stupid idea!

  • Comment number 71.

    Yes and the foreign owned ones twice as much as the nationally owned ones. Any new law should also be backdated to this winter as the sale of our airports was demanded by Brussels and the Spanish bought Heathrow to extract all the profit from it for the benefit of Spain.

    All the transport infrastructure and the Utilities in the UK should be UK owned and run and the foreigners should be told to s*d off without compensation. The same goes for our banks that Brussels arer trying to have sold to foreigners.

  • Comment number 72.

    Of course if they have not done as well as they should have done to avoid or. minimise it. So for example when you have an airport with two runways that has fewer staff and less eqipment to clear runways than another nearby with one runway that gets more snow, and they compound the felony by communicating badly or not at all, and not providing space for people to wait in comfort for their flights that are delayed largely because of their incompetence, then its pretty much QED

    In fact BAA are so bad that I wonder if there isn't a case for cancelling their contract forthwith, or even renationalisation without compensation. They deserve the same consideration that they gave their passengers, ie none at all.

    The root of the problem is that people make decisions on the basis of their perceptions of probability, without considering the consequences of an improbable event happening. There are some decisions you need to take on the basis of consequences. Heavy snowfall at the UK's biggest airports is one of them, but if the mind -set is wrong itwon'teven occur.

  • Comment number 73.

    How much of the fine would come from the snow removal budget?

  • Comment number 74.

    If it can be proved without any shadow of doubt that an airport did nothing to keep airlines and passengers moving, by all means fine them. But this compensation culture must to come to an end.

  • Comment number 75.

    Another ridiculous solution from an incompetent government. They should have invested money on winter preparation not fining airport. In the event of heavy snow, airport will still remain open to avoid fine even if they aren't prepared. What will you think the final result? there would be accidents and casualties - a lot of it.

  • Comment number 76.

    Frankly I would rather be disrupted than fly in unsafe conditions. A push to make aircraft fly when iced up or into snowstorms might be good for government spin but I dont want to do it.

    Ok so in Canada etc they may love their flying into blizzards but this is not Canada, 90% of the population dont have 4x4's and wide empty roads to loose control on this is England, we have cheap little vehicles that get affected by snow, and little roads with people walking next to them and out whole transport infrastructure grinds to a halt as people are rightly concerned to use it, or kill themselves or others. This spills into getting to the airports on time and also affects airport activity.

    So powers should be realistic, within a framework of resources and actions that can afford to be delivered and not some pie in the sky idea.

    That being said BA kindly paid for my accommodation and travel last year when my flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Good old BA.

  • Comment number 77.

    In such dangerous, icy conditions, it would be sheer folly to force airlines to schedule flights on time. Fining airlines would be a very bad precedent!It is better to be safe than sorry. The icy conditions have disrupted air traffic schedules. No planes should be allowed to take off or land until the run-ways are thoroughly safe. The shortage of salt in several major European airports made the situation even more critical. Brussels airport, for instance, was at a virtual standstill with irate passengers being virtually stranded. Passengers were forced to sleep on the floor. Airline personnel and ground-staff were at their wits' end! Fortunately this freak winter conditions are rare.

  • Comment number 78.

    Fined - no fired!

  • Comment number 79.

    Another way for the crybabies to jack the price on something. When will people learn? Probably when we stop handing them what they want when they cry! Maybe their standards would lower. You can't predict the weather and even being prepared doesn't make it safe. This thought process is getting out of hand. People know Holiday travel is unpredictable due to weather and people. They shouldn't be that surprised, did they watch the Tele before they left? Grow up and stop making the rest of us pay more for something that works.

  • Comment number 80.

    The government has to do two things, one is fine the airports, the other is make sure the flight is safe.

  • Comment number 81.

    Should airports be fined for bad weather disruptions?

    No, unless someone can prove they caused the bad weather!

    Seriously though, this exceptional cold snap was flagged at least a week in advance.

    I think people should be more weather-aware, if an area of high pressure builds, and then sits over or near Britian in winter, it is likely to drag in wintry weather off the continent.

  • Comment number 82.

    Absolutely not. Airports cannot be held accountable for extreme weather events - of any kind. Safety must come first. Why is it that people think this only applies to the UK - on just the odd rare occasion? There has been equally bad disruption in Europe - and now in the eastern USA. As people here have said - why not fine the govt for the state of the UK road network?
    Uninformed people continue to compare Heathrow with Scandinavian airports. For example Helsinki Vantaa has three runways, far more snow clearing equipment (as it gets snow every winter) but it handles about half the flights that Heathrow does. All this proves is that Heathrow does need a third runway - this would ease the burden on the other two and allow one to be swept of snow while the others remain active on a rotational basis. For airports with less traffic keeping runways open is easier – as they can get snow ploughs etc on the runway between flights. Heathrow is simply far too busy – there are no gaps so during really heavy snow the runways must be closed to clear it. This causes an instant backlog that will take hours if not days to clear – no airport in the world can avoid that.
    Fines and compensation are ludicrous in winter situations. Why do people expect airlines or airports to provide hotel rooms etc for something that is outside their control? Such regulations are fine for one-off events, such as an aircraft being unavailable (thus the airline’s responsibility). But to have a blanket compensation rule which includes any type of disruption, regardless of scale and reason is dumb in the extreme. The recent Heathrow problems illustrate this perfectly. There were more people affected daily than there were hotel rooms in the whole of London! So what were the airlines supposed to do?
    Many people suffered difficulties on the roads recently – but do they ask for compensation from their car’s manufacturer because it didn’t get them from A to B? Of course not – it’s just that airlines and airports are an easy target.
    Knee-jerk reactions solve nothing. What is needed is a careful analysis of the recent weather events to see if they are likely to be repeated. If this is the case then increased spending on snow clearance equipment and a review of procedures will be needed. Airports don’t need fines – it is in their own financial interests to stay open, they don’t want to close as it loses them money.
    Lessons will be learnt – but it must be remembered that the sub-zero weather recently experienced in the UK has broken many records – after years of mild winters. To expect transport infrastructure to carry on as if it was mid-summer with practically no disruption is naïve.
    Mark Nicholls
    Editor Airports of the World

  • Comment number 83.

    A fine on BAA hurts the share holders. It is not a direct disincentive to bad management. The fine should be built into BAA's management reward system.
    In fact, the management reward system should encapsulate the carrots & sticks that reflect the accomplishment of goals of the organisation.

  • Comment number 84.

    A indirect TAX that will be passed on to the customer !

  • Comment number 85.

    1. At 10:56am on 26 Dec 2010, Mistress76uk wrote:
    It is beyond pathetic that airports here in the UK are so underprepared for bad weather. Of course they should be fined.
    It is also beyond pathetic that we have sold airports to foreign companies whose only intention is to maximise profits whilst penny-pinching to the hilt with no thought whatsoever of customers.
    Only one thing to do now – fine them to the hilt.

  • Comment number 86.

    The answer to every problem seems to be to levy a fine so that the money can be wasted on some other useless project, to be used to underwrite some new quango or to contribute to the expenses of political parasites. Instead, nationalise the asset that is failing to perform. This should be read-across top banks as well, then self-rewarding could cease or those who are consistantly whining about being forced to go overseas can do so. Once true professionals, accountable to ministers who would be fired in an instant if their reponsibilities were not met might concentrate a few minds. I'll not hold my breath.

  • Comment number 87.

    Let me get this straight: At a time when airports are suddenly hit with adverse weather and cannot get their planes off the ground, at a time when plows are working at full capacity, at a time when airports are feeling the intense pressure of stranded passengers, you want to fine the airports for the disruption.
    If you want my legal opinion, here it is: you cannot fine any entity for what is an act of God.
    I'm sure Heathrow was doing its best; I'm sure it was not playing the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I'm sure it was struggling to clear snow and ice from runways.
    BAA Chief Executive Colin Matthews announced he would give up his annual bonus after recent disruption at Heathrow. What more can he do? Do you want his blood?
    As for Heathrow's reputation, this snow was an act of God. I suppose if you can't shake your first at God, Heathrow will have to do.
    The only way that I would give this intended action even the slightest nod would be if the money went directly to pay for passenger inconvenience i.e. It was not simply a cash grab by the Government, which would likely cause certain Ministers to spend far too much time on their knees praying for adverse weather.
    A BAA spokesman said he welcomed any law "designed to improve the experience for passengers at the UK's airports". So, how about the Government and the BAA sit down and figure out a better way. This would be what I'd call a positive reaction to a sad situation.
    The spokesman added: "We will of course play a full part in the government's discussions about this year's weather disruption and will make public the findings of our own independent investigation."
    What more does the Government want: It's cash grab?
    Where under the Civil Aviation Authority does it say that you can fine an airport for an act of God?
    May I remind you that flights were also disrupted at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gatwick, Luton and London City airports, while terminals across Europe were also closed.
    The EU Commission said the industry needed to "get serious" about preparing for bad weather. I agree with this, but fines? What will fines accomplish? You can't even apply fines under current legislation.
    BAA should not be punished for an act of God.

  • Comment number 88.

    That would be like citing God, if you believe in that sort of thing.

    Face it. The weather is going to do whatever it is going to do, and while we are most certainly making weather worse, with the human impact on the environment reaching critical levels, we cannot do a darn thing about controlling the weather.

    Airports have little say in that matter.

  • Comment number 89.

    And the cost of the fines are passed on to the air traveller so in real terms the flyer is paying the cost of delays to themself.

    Why not look for solutions rather than taking away any chance of investment because of spurious fines. Or airports will let planes fly to avoid fines when it would be dangerous to fly. 200-300 lives lost because for the sake of a Christmas gettaway.

    Fines are not the answer but investment and looking how other nations cope. Remember this snow is a new thing to a generation of people.

  • Comment number 90.

    #87 God doesn't disrupt airports so leave him out of it.

  • Comment number 91.

    A new day is coming!

  • Comment number 92.

    The bad weather is not caused by the airport, but the way they dealt with it has caused more than expected chaos. So in that sense, yes.

    however, we also have to consider - are we fining all transport service providers like British rail?? their crisis management is equally bad but they can increase the fares by 25%!

  • Comment number 93.

    There will always be times when the weather will beat us (we will not be the only country in this situation). If we fine commercial organisations will they keep going when it is not safe to do so?

    Who will decide at what point it is no longer practicable to fly?

    The airports were not sufficiently prepared. But there are still limits to what they can do.

  • Comment number 94.

    No they should not be fined but passengers and airlines are entitled to bigger compensation. The government and the EU are a waste of space as well as continually "sponging" off the people they represent so badly.

    When most streets and pavements in the land are covered in ice and the authorities do not have the funds to clear it, HMG finds another 40 million quid to splash out on the corrupt United nations - you could not make it up! Cameron: son of Brown and grandson of Blair....

  • Comment number 95.

    should airports be fined? No! the will of the nation is governed by the government and not the individual organisation.It is the government that has failed the national interest on the movement of transport on goods and passenger transport,sea ways, air ways and or roadways.It is the government's responsibility to ensure that all and every effort is made to traffic ways open to public travel and is free from hazardous causes,which inludes snow and ice,flooding ect.But for the safe measures taken by airport authorities to prevent accidents governmet would be facing the wrath of the people at home and abroad.

  • Comment number 96.

    I don't see the point of these witchhunts, the airlines can't control the weather and it would be uneconomical for them to set up winter preparations on a par with Russia. People who want to travel at this time of year, need to accept that there may be delays due to weather. If they don't like it, then stay at home.

  • Comment number 97.

    Airports should certainly be punished for these disruptions, but this sounds a little bit arbitrary to me. This smells strongly of a knee-jerk reaction by the government to show the public that they are doing something about this crisis. In typical government style, they think they can solve the problem by punishing, punishing and punishing without fully understanding the natural challenges associated with being the busiest airport in Europe.
    Why can't they be constructive for once? Survey other European airports affected by the snow and find out how they cope with it, adopt best practices and introduce new legislation to help facilitate these. Don't just look airports in the eye and say "I don't care how you solve the problem, do it or face our wrath!" This clearly hasn't been thought through, God help us should something like this happen again next year.

  • Comment number 98.

    Is someone's nine year old child coming up with these questions?

  • Comment number 99.

    They should not only be fined, the cosy cartel that allows them to charge £6 for one hour's parking should be broken up - just like the broken up short term car park at Luton.

  • Comment number 100.

    Of course an airport should make every effort to help tourists that cannot fly due to bad weather. But it is not good both for airports and tourists to fine for failure of service. Safety is the most important for tourists. Service is the second. I’m afraid that fine for failure of service may affect the safety of airports.


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