European airports lick their snowy wounds

When a virtually unprecedented snowfall hit Europe in December last year, airports across the continent were paralysed, throwing airline schedules into disarry and stranding cargo and passengers across the continent as airports struggled to cope with the snowfall. Wong Joon San reports.

A Singapore-based analyst says the heavy snowfall in Europe and the US is estimated to have cost at least US$350 million in lost revenue for airlines and that the European economy suffered lost business worth millions of dollars. He expected the closure of UK airports due to the heavy snowfall to cost UK airport operator, BAA (SP) Ltd about US$5 million a day. Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive says: “An external inquiry (being led by a team of aviation experts from parts of the world familiar with heavy snowfall) will reveal what happened because of the snow at Heathrow on Saturday, December 18.” “I am responsible for what happens at Heathrow and my management team and I will act speedily on its conclusions. Meanwhile, we are urgently reviewing the airport’s preparedness if difficult weather occurs during the rest of this winter,” he says. Like the European airports, airlines were similarly helpless as they either faced delays or flight cancellations, impacting their profits. When asked how Cargolux had fared last year during the snowstorms in the UK and other parts of Europe, Robert van de Weg, senior VP Sales & Marketing at Cargolux, says: “Of course it affected us as well and our Luxembourg hub was closed several times in December. As a consequence, virtually our entire programme was delayed during the two weeks (from mid December until shortly after Christmas). And we only cancelled a few flights.