Categorized | Airlines

British airlines warn of Olympics airport chaos…

Posted on 20 March 2012

A view of 2012 London Olympics signage in Terminal 5 of the Heathrow Airport

Four of Britain’s biggest airlines are warning of severe delays and flight disruptions during the Olympics unless the government takes “urgent” action.


British Airways, bmi, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said in a letter to the government published Saturday that an Olympic surge in passengers means any security alert or bad weather could cause chaos unless special arrangements are made.


“Time is running out to ensure that any changes to procedures and the appropriate training are in place prior to the Games,” the airlines’ letter says, according to Reuters.


The airlines outlined their areas of concern in their joint letter, whose signatories included the director of operations from both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, Reuters reports.


The Daily Mail of London also picks up on the story, writing:


In basic terms, the group is calling for greater flexibility to put the needs of bigger airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick over smaller airports such as Farnborough in Surrey when there is high demand.


The airlines say they’re also worried about unusually crowded airspace, citing everything from an influx of private aircraft to the effects of news helicopters used by local media during the Olympics.


With the airspace at capacity during the Games, the four British carriers say they’re especially worried disruptions from security alerts or thunderstorms could quickly cascade.


The Financial Times writes that “in such circumstances, the airlines want air traffic controllers to be granted permission to focus on getting their scheduled flights in and out of London’s airports, ahead of business jets and smaller aircraft.”


The Times adds that United Kingdom air traffic control typically uses “a so-called first-come, first-served principle” for prioritizing scheduled commercial flights vs. flights on private aircraft.


The airlines called for the United Kingdom government to act now ahead of the Games, which are expected to bring 500,000 or more foreign visitors to the nation for the July 27-Aug. 12 event.


Airlines, government and aviation authorities are scheduled to meet this week to discuss plans for air travel during the Olympics.


“Failure to respond leaves the U.K. vulnerable to the type of major disruption that will cause significant reputational damage and would be foolhardy and reckless,” the airlines’ letter is quoted as saying by Bloomberg News.

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