Monday, 12 December 2011

More winter disruption at Heathrow?

Groupo Ferrovial is the Spanish company that owns BAA, the operator of London's Heathrow airport. Over the last couple of years Britain has suffered two harsh winters that have brought misery to many travellers, especially at Heathrow. Groupo Ferrovial has a blog site that informs visitors of its innovative plans for urban areas in the 21st century. It reads like a Huxleyan vision of the future, but it is hard to see how this visionary zeal is played out in reality. There seems to be an unrealistic belief that technology alone will be the liberating force to bring a new model of efficiency to cities' inhabitants.

In December 2009, Heathrow airport suffered harsh weather conditions that led to misery for many travellers passing through its various termini. This misery was compounded by frozen runways, delayed flights and a shortage of baggage handlers after 10pm. This is not to say that it is possible to avoid any disruption caused by adverse weather conditions, but things could have been a whole lot better for suffering travellers.

In December 2010, again Britain suffered an equally cruel winter, and again air travellers suffered the, by now, expected upheaval of the previous winter. But why were things not better handled than before?
BAA announced after the winter of 2009 that it had acquired hundreds of thousands of litres of runway and aircraft standing de-icer, and there were now snow-ploughs that could clear the worst snow in under 40 minutes. So why did things not improve in the winter of 2010?

A clue to all this can be found in the idea that companies, like Groupo Ferrovial, may have a visionary zeal for a technological future, but when it comes to putting its money where its mouth is there seems to be a reality check. It takes the will to deal with unexpected situations for a company to show that the profit motive is not the only thing that drives its ambitions. There has to be the will to put profit on the back-burner when Mother Nature strikes a blow if people are to be assured that they are not just witnessing a scramble for yet another opportunity for large corporations to seize the booty.

More overtime for baggage handlers would have dealt with the flight delays in 2009, and 2010, and paying someone to actually man the snow-ploughs and spread the de-icer would have saved a lot of travellers' misery.

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