Spheres of responsibility
58. We have already described the connection between
service quality and economic regulation. Although BAA is responsible
for the operation of its airports, there are some things that
it does not control. One very important area is security, where
standards are set by the Transport Security and Contingencies
section of the Department for Transport (Transec). BAA is responsible
for meeting these standards. We received evidence that it had
met difficulties on two fronts: contingency planning and recruiting
enough security staff, particularly female search officers. Stephen
Nelson of BAA admitted that before the security crisis which started
on 10 August 2006, BAA "had insufficient staff for a steady
He described the problems BAA experienced with recruiting security
staff, which can take up to 20 weeks.
Following the security crisis, BAA took on 2,000 extra staff out
of 35,000 applicants, which doubled the size of their force.
59. Mr Nelson explained that many other areas of
service did not fall under BAA's operational remit. The Home Office
runs immigration, and the airlines employ the staff who operate
baggage reclaim. Check-in desks are operated by the airlines and
punctuality of departure can be affected by many factors over
which BAA has no control.
Simon Evans of the Air Transport Users' Council (AUC) explained
At Heathrow they [passengers] blame the airport
because they have seen a lot of the press coverage and they know
that Heathrow is a constrained airport. If they miss their flight
or if it is the flight that is delayed rather than that they are
having to queue a long time to get through check-in or security,
they blame the airline, and that is the right thing to do because
their contact is with the airline and it is the airline that has
liability for any damage they have suffered as a result of their
60. When things do go wrong for passengers, they
are able to contact the AUC, which exists to "further the
reasonable interests of users of air transport services",
a requirement placed upon the CAA by the Airports Act 1982.
In our report on Passengers' Experiences of Air Travel we commended
the work of the AUC and recommended that "the CAA look at
devising some kind of cross-subsidy for the Council from airport
and airline fines for poor performance and that the Council does
more to advertise itself".
When we asked the AUC why it was not more proactive in its
work, Simon Evans told us that this was not prioritised
"because of the terms of reference and because of our budget".
61. We have already called for the AUC's funding
to be increased. It should become a proactive consumer body, going
out and engaging with passengers. Its role to 'further the reasonable
interests' of passengers should be interpreted as meaning more
than just waiting for disgruntled passengers to make a complaint.
However, if the AUC's terms of reference do need amending to allow
it to become a genuinely proactive body, then the CAA and AUC
should do so quickly.
62. BAA may feel as though it is taking a lot
of the flak for things that are not part of its day to day responsibility,
but this does not detract from the serious questions raised over
mismanagement of resources and failure to plan adequately for
contingencies which were far from unexpected, let alone inconceivable.
With the ever-present possibility of extraordinary circumstances
such as strikes or terrorist incidents, queues at airports are
almost inevitable from time to time. Our criticism of BAA is that
it should have predicted the predictable, and planned accordingly.
63. Many of the challenges relating to capacity at
Heathrow have been attributed to lack of space in the terminals.
With Terminal 5 due to open on 27 March 2008, the experience for
many passengers will be much improved. Dr Harry Bush told us that:
There has been, if you like, an excuse up to
now which is that the airport has been very overcrowded [
With the opening of T5 and the new investment that is being put
in in this coming five years to improve the rest of the airport
that excuse goes; that actually from now on there ought to be
sufficient capacity to enable them to drive the sort of service
quality that is needed.
We asked the witnesses from BAA what difference they
thought Terminal 5 would have upon operations at Heathrow. Stephen
Nelson told us that:
Terminal 5 at a stroke will reduce the numbers
of passengers going through Terminal 1 by about 50%, the numbers
of passengers going through Terminal 4 by about 75%, and that
will level out to 50, and the numbers of passengers going from
Terminal 2 by about 15%. That will provide from April  very
considerable relief to passengers in physical terms.
64. The main benefits arising from T5 will be
for passengers and British Airways. The increase in capacity that
a fifth terminal provides has given BAA the opportunity to move
airlines around and improve the condition of the other terminals.
This will benefit all other airlines and their passengers. It
is however regrettable that BAA ever allowed the position to get
as bad as it did.
65. As many aircraft are taking off from UK airports
as current capacity will allow. The Government's position on new
runways was set out in the 2003 White Paper: that two more runways
should be built in the south east, one at Stansted and the other
at Heathrow. Further development at Gatwick was ruled out until
at least 2019. 'Mixed mode' operationswhere runways are
used for both take-offs and landingsare a way of extending
capacity, but can only be introduced after a public consultation.
BAA's plans to introduce mixed mode at Heathrow are now being
proposed as a 'stepping stone' between the current level of traffic
and the level of traffic that a third runway would allow. It is
to the plans for expansion at Heathrow that we now turn.
53 Q 118, Ev 80 Back
Q 131 Back
Q 194 Back
Q 117 Back
Q 79 Back
Q 193 Back
Q 125 Back
Q 25 Back
Q 26 Back
Q 209 Back
Q 229 Back
Q 233 Back
Q 242 Back
Q 97 Back
Airports Act 1982, section 4(1)(b) Back
Transport Committee, Passengers' Experiences of Air Travel,
para 147 Back
Q 91 Back
Q 19 Back
Q 239 Back