BA and BAA under fire - as even the Chancellor gets snow-bound

If the weekend chaos at Heathrow et al wasn't bad enough, now the snow has forced a postponement of today's scheduled bank bonus showdown...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
After the ridiculous weather brought Heathrow pretty much to a standstill over the weekend, there's been a fierce backlash aginst both BA (whose share price has taken a kicking this morning) and airport operator BAA, which has been accused of under-investing in anti-snow measures. And here's something else to add to the charge sheet: apparently the scheduled showdown talks between Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable and the bosses of the major banks - intended to hammer out some kind of agreement on bonuses - have had to be postponed, because the politicians are stuck in New York. Though somehow, we can't imagine Vince and George are sleeping under space blankets on the floor of JFK...

The snow and freezing temperatures this weekend meant most airlines saw their services massively disrupted, while most airwaves were clogged with disgruntled passengers moaning about their experiences ('third world country', 'war zone' and so on and so forth). But BA and BAA appear to have come out of it particularly badly; with hardly any planes managing to take off from Heathrow yesterday, BA's share price slumped nearly 2% this morning, while BAA boss Colin Matthews was forced to grovel on the Today programme this morning ('really disappointed... absolutely distressing and heart-breaking... couldn't be more sorry' etc).

Frankly, it's easy to feel a bit sorry for these two - who, particularly in BA's case, have plenty of other stuff to worry about at the moment. After all, lots of airports and airlines were disrupted this weekend. And although Transport Secretary Philip Hammond talked vaguely about a review of the UK response today, there's only so much the Government can do: we'll always be vulnerable to unusual and extreme weather. Nor is it sensible to spend lots of public money we don't have preparing for a relatively unlikely eventuality, however annoying it is in the event.

On the other hand, if nothing else, judging by passenger accounts, both BA and BAA appear to have done a pretty poor job of managing the situation on the ground - there have been countless complaints from passengers about a lack of information and clarity. So there are clearly some lessons to be learned.

Let’s just hope the Chancellor can now get a flight back in time to get these talks done before Christmas. No doubt he’ll be waiting his turn for an available seat like everybody else in the same position…

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