The European Commission has stepped into the row over winter airport chaos, warning that it may be forced to impose minimum service rules.

Commission vice president responsible for travel Siim Kallas said: “I am extremely concerned about the level of disruption to travel across Europe caused by severe snow. It is unacceptable and should not happen again.

“In recent days, I have become increasingly concerned about the problems relating to the infrastructure available to airlines – airports and ground handling – during this severe period of snow.

“It seems at this stage that this is a ‘weak link’ in a chain which, under pressure, is contributing to severe disruption.”

He has called for an urgent meeting with airport bosses to look at ways to avoid similar problems in the future.

“Airports must ‘get serious’ about planning for this kind of severe weather conditions,” said Kallas. “We have seen in recent years that snow in Western Europe is not such an exceptional circumstance.

“Better preparedness, in line with what is done in Northern Europe is not an optional extra, it must be planned for and with the necessary investment, particularly on the side of the airports.”

There should be “appropriate service levels and minimum quality requirements” that are followed and delivered.

“If there is a need for support from the European Commission in terms of regulation on minimum service requirements for airports in this area, I am prepared to do that, for example, when we bring forward the airports package on slots and groundhandling which is foreseen before summer next year,” added Kallas.

“What we need for the future is to make sure that there is proportionate responsibility and risk sharing between all the operators in the supply chain, in particular when it comes to air travel, and this includes also passengers. I intend to address this issue during next year.”