Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heathrow Airport Airlines' "Crisis Meeting" With BAA

Airport-int - image

According to reports in the UK media, a "crisis meeting" will be held at Heathrow Airport this week between airlines and the airport's operator, the British Airports Authority (BAA).

Last week BAA permitted British Airways to delay the transfer of long-haul flights to Terminal 5 until June at the earliest as a result of the baggage chaos which marred T5's first few weeks of operation. It is hoped that a phased introduction of long-haul services to T5 will help avoid any problems with an overloaded baggage system.

However, other major carriers at Heathrow are angered by BAA's decision, because it means their own carefully-layed plans to move into new bases around the airport have been thrown into disarray.
Today, The Guardian newspaper reported that a "crisis summit" will be held at Heathrow on Wednesday where the issues will be discussed. The meeting will involve all the major airlines affected and BAA's airline relocations working group, which is co-ordinating the move of airlines around the airport.

BAA admited the delay in transferring BA services will disrupt other airlines' schedules for moving around the airport, but they defended the decision to allow the delay.

Airline Terminal Moves at Heathrow

The move of BA's long-haul services to T5 from Terminal 4, and the future closure of Terminal 2 in preparation for the Heathrow East terminal project, led to BAA undertaking a major reconfiguration of where airlines operate from around the airport.

Under the plans, airlines are being "grouped" at Heathrow's different terminals according to the alliance they belong to. Star Alliance airlines (including bmi, Lufthansa and United) are moving to Terminal 1, Oneworld airlines (such as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific) are transferring to Terminal 3, and SkyTeam airlines (including Air France-KLM and Aeroflot) are moving into the space vacated by BA long-haul services at Terminal 4.

This necessitates a complex series of moves taking over 12 months to complete.

However, the delay in transferring BA services from T4 to T5 has thrown this schedule into confusion - and the airlines affected are far from happy.

Nigel Turner, the chief executive of bmi British Midland, Heathrow's second-largest operator, said BAA's decision to grant BA the delay was "outrageous".

He said: "BAA and BA have shown a total disregard for all other airlines and their passengers at Heathrow in coming to this decision because of their own shortcomings and their inability to implement an agreed plan".

Turner claimed that the other airlines at Heathrow had not been consulted by BAA before the decision to delay the BA transfers was made.

He added: "The UK is once again a laughing stock".

BAA Defend Heathrow Terminal Move Delay Decision

BAA sought to defend the decision to delay the terminal moves around Heathrow.

A spokeswoman admitted that there would be delays for airlines, and a knock-on effect for passengers, but added the company will work with the airlines affected to "mitigate the impact" on customers.

She said: "We recognise that this decision will have knock-on effects for other airlines at Heathrow. However, it is in the interests of all carriers at the airport - and the country - that the reputation of Heathrow as an effective global hub is restored on a lasting basis as quickly as possible".

For their part, BA said last week that the other airlines would have to accept the delays because of the "overriding interest" was to have an efficient, functioning airport.

Source - Airport International's London Reporter

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