BAA to probe handling of snow chaos at Heathrow

Heathrow owner BAA is attempting to appease critics by instigating its own probe into the chaos at the airport prompted by snow and ice over the past week.

An additional £10 million has been made available to the airside operations team at Heathrow to “bolster winter resilience” with the first of the new vehicles are arriving yesterday.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews announced the appointment of an external international panel of experts “to establish the lessons which can be learned” from recent events at Heathrow.

Matthews said: “The enquiry 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.

“The enquiry will have complete freedom to examine the sequence of events, and to deliver recommendations for BAA to implement.”

Independent non-executive director Professor David Begg, who joined the BAA board earlier this month, will lead the external enquiry.

Panel members will be drawn from airports and airlines around the world.

They will have a far-reaching brief to look at the planning, execution and recovery from the difficult weather conditions of last weekend and will publish their report in March 2011, BAA said.

Those involved include Murray Sigler, former president of Canadian Airlines International and ex-CEO of Winnipeg airport; Jim Cherry, CEO of Montreal airport; Ben Decosta, former CEO of Atlanta and Newark Liberty airports and Josef Felder, former CEO of Zurich airport.

The enquiry will be supported by Dr David Quarmby, who has recently completed a government-commissioned review on UK winter resilience.

Prof Begg said: “I look forward to bringing together this experienced group of transport industry professionals to explore how well Heathrow airport was prepared for this most recent period of bad weather, how it responded and to make a series of recommendations to Colin Matthews and his team. 

“In doing so, the panel will talk to airport managers, airlines and passenger representatives to provide a balanced perspective of what happened at Heathrow.”

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