5:21pm. Thursday 10 March 2011
Post by: Stewart Wingate, CEO
I appeared before the Transport Select Committee in parliament this week to talk about the impact of the recent snow on operations at Gatwick.
As you probably remember, we had our coldest December for generations - having been told by forecasters that last year's snow was a 1 in 20 year event.
I know exactly how bad it was for those travelling. It took me 13 hours to drive just 40 miles on the M25 on my way into Gatwick.
Unprecedented, continuous snowfall forced Gatwick to close for two days in early December, however, a few weeks later, when it snowed again, our runway was closed for just a few hours.
This was not down to luck.
It was down to leadership, communications and teamwork. And that’s exactly what I told the Transport Select Committee and industry leaders on Tuesday.
At Gatwick, we learn from challenging situations and we did in December.
After the first snowfall, we pushed the button on an £8 million investment to double the size of our snow clearing equipment. We now have more snow ploughs than any other UK airport and we’re on a par with Oslo airport for snow clearing capability.
We also learned that we have a pivotal role to play in working with our airlines to give timely and clear information to passengers, their friends and families about disruption. It’s this teamwork – not just with our staff – but with all our airport partners that really made the difference.
BA's operations director, Andrew Lord, also praised our response. He said there were "clearly" lessons that Heathrow could take from Gatwick's performance. "The way Gatwick has learned over the past 18 months is probably the best example."
Despite all our hard work to get Gatwick moving, our passengers were at the mercy of the road and rail network to get to and from our airport.
While we were open within a matter of hours it was some days before the rail links were fully operational - and I reinforced this to the Select Committee.
Improving the way the wider transport infrastructure copes is fundamental to our ability to keep Gatwick running during future snow.
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