Airline body BAR UK questions snow disruption penalties

Image caption,
Icy conditions left thousands of people stranded after flights were cancelled and delayed across the UK

A body representing more than 80 airlines has said it is unfair that the costs and penalties of snow and ice-related airport closures fall on them.

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) also questioned the role played by airport operators.

But BAA, which runs Heathrow and some other airports, said it was "too early to discuss financial issues".

It comes after the aviation regulator was critical of some airlines in the wake of the recent weather disruption.

The CAA warned some airlines about their "unacceptable treatment of passengers" in bad weather after icy conditions recently forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights across the UK, stranding thousands of travellers.

On Friday it said had written to "a few airlines", both UK-based and overseas-based, saying they had not met their EU laid-down obligations to customers.

Refunds, meals, hotel accommodation and telephone calls are covered in these passenger rights.

The CAA said the matter was "ongoing" but did not name the airlines concerned.

The regulator added that some airlines were "clearly making real efforts to look after their passengers in difficult circumstances", saying it commended those concerned for their efforts.

Following these comments, BAR UK chief executive Mike Carrivick said: "The recent Heathrow closure and restrictions created an operational nightmare. Literally hundreds of thousands of passengers had to be handled at a time when nobody, not even the airport operator, knew what was going on and which flights could operate.

"Yet, despite being the innocent party, the costs and penalties of airport closures fall on the airlines, even when the airport operator admits its own shortcomings."

Mr Carrivick urged the CAA to "look at the role of the airport operator and the sanctions that might apply should they fall in their obligations".

However, a BAA spokesman said the focus was on getting its airports "running completely normally again and getting passengers on their way".

"We will crawl over the events of the last few days," he said, "and do everything we can to learn lessons and understand what we might do differently when the poor weather returns, as it inevitably will.

"It is simply too early to discuss financial issues."

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