Heathrow 'Must Explain' Snow Delays

Ministers will be calling for explanations from airlines and Heathrow over scores of cancelled flights caused by snow in recent days, the Government has said.

Government transport spokesman Earl Attlee said disruption had been reduced ``significantly'' since 2010, but he said the issue would be investigated.

At question time in the House of Lords, he said Heathrow had implemented the 14 recommendations included in a 2011 inquiry into the airport's resilience in a £50 million programme.

He said: ``Airlines have also improved their responses to severe weather. However we are asking airlines to explain why aircraft de-icing problems occurred at Heathrow and what improvements are needed.''

And he added: ``The Minister of State (Simon Burns) will be having a chat with the management of Heathrow.''

His comments came as Heathrow and British Airways came under fire from peers over the cancellations, which are continuing today.

Tory former minister Baroness Browning said: ``We will have witnessed on the television the misery of passengers and of course the damage done to the UK's reputation.''

She said it was time for ``Heathrow to learn the lessons rather quickly so we do not have these annual reports after what is after all a rather modest snowfall''.

Lord Attlee said there had been ``some disappointment'' and that television news had not shown the ``very significant'' disruption at other European airports.

Labour's Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale said the issue was not de-icing but that Heathrow was running at 99% capacity

She asked: ``Is it not time that an airport that is trying to pretend it is an international hub airport stops running at a rate of capacity that is clearly outwith its capabilities to sustain?''

Lord Attlee said Paris' Charles De Gaulle airport had experienced a cancellation rate of 40% despite the fact it had four runways and ran at 75% capacity.

Lord Bradshaw called for contingency planning so that passengers were advised ``well in advance not to leave their homes, not to leave their hotels and not to sleep on the floor''.

And retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, an independent crossbench peer, told the House she had been ``one of those who was held in Madrid because of BA failures to take us on Friday and again booked us on Saturday and again we were unable to fly BA''.

She added: ``But Iberia, closely connected to BA, had no problem whatsoever in taking us half an hour after the BA flight. I just wonder what is happening if a company like Iberia, closely connected to BA, can in fact fly and take passengers but BA can't.''

Lord Attlee said she should write to BA for an explanation.

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