Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

Written evidence from the British Air Transport Association (BATA) (AWC 34)

1. The British Air Transport Association (BATA) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry entitled ‘Impact on Transport of Recent Adverse Weather Conditions’, being undertaken by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

2. BATA is the trade body for UK registered airlines. Our eleven members cover all sectors of the airline industry – including freight, charter, low fare, regional operations and full service. In 2009, BATA members directly employed over 76,000 people, operated four fifths of the UK commercial aircraft fleet and were responsible for some 93% of UK airline output, carrying 121 million passengers and 1 million tonnes of freight1.

3. We are aware that a number of BATA’s member airlines will be making their own, detailed submissions to this inquiry by the Transport Select Committee, highlighting their own experience and setting out their individual positions and recommendations.

4. BATA has therefore attempted to provide a short, high level response to the Committee, after consultation with and input from our member airlines.

5. We focus on the most relevant area, as identified in the inquiry’s Terms of Reference , for our industry and members; namely the impact on the UK’s airports, including the extent to which lessons were learnt from winter 2009-10.

6. We note the adverse weather that the UK experienced in December 2010 has been reported as the being coldest in 100 years2. The cold temperatures, combined with heavy snowfall over short periods of time will of course cause some disruption and we appreciate that the conditions in the UK during December could fairly be described as exceptional or unprecedented.

7. The UK was not alone in experiencing problems and a number of airports across Europe and indeed in the USA had to close due to snow and ice.

8. We also note that the response to the adverse winter weather was far from consistent at UK airports, and would strongly urge that examples of good practice should be considered and learnt from.

9. However, we believe that as a general rule, airports could have undertaken much more rigorous and better planning for such an event and consulted much earlier in their planning process and development of their contingency or crisis management plans with airlines and handling agents.

10. There were also problems in ensuring the delivery of up to date, real time, clear and accurate information by airports to airlines and the public during the periods that the weather affected operations.

11. Clearing a runway of snow and ice does not make the airport itself operational. Aircraft stands, aprons and other areas need to be cleared in order to be able to safely facilitate operations. At some airports, improved storage areas for the varied ground vehicles (especially ones that involve water) required to service aircraft and allow an airport to operate would help prevent delays in a similar bad weather scenario. It is apparent to us that that the airport operator is and must be held responsible for clearing these areas.

12. Although we have focused on the impact of the weather on airports in this short submission, we would also like to emphasise that aviation is reliant on the rest of the transport system and that ensuring surface access to airports should be considered a priority by authorities.

13. A lack of spare capacity and space, notably at Heathrow, also caused problems for airlines and passengers and meant that the airport took longer to recover than might otherwise have been the case. Pressures on space were compounded by misleading or incorrect information being given out by the media, flight diversions and restricted surface access, resulting in terminal buildings at some airports becoming overcrowded on occasion.

14. BATA would be pleased to provide oral evidence to expand on the points made in this submission.

February 2011

[1] CAA ‘UK Airline Statistics: 2009 – Annual’, tables 1.6, 1.14 and 1.11.2

[2] Met Office Press Release: