British airports could face fines over snow chaos

Reuters/Toby Melville

Britain's transport minister, Philip Hammond, says new laws may be introduced to fine airports for disrupting passenger's travel following the pre-Christmas chaos that hit London's Heathrow airport. The fines could run into tens of millions of pounds after arctic weather all but shut down Heathrow for several days. 


Hammond deeply criticised BAA, the Spanish-owned operator of Heathrow, after angry passengers unable to fly were forced to spend the night on luggage trays used as makeshift beds.

"There should be an economic penalty for service failure," Hammond told the Sunday Times newspaper. He added that is was unacceptable that the company would face no punishment from the regulator under the current system.

The laws would see regulators given extra powers to impose fines for service failures through a new airport economic regulation bill. It would include penalites for failing to prepare for adverse weather conditions. The regulator could also be given powers to step in when an airport is not working effectively.

Most flights are now operating normally, but the shutdown at Heathrow, the world's busiest airport for international traffic, caused outrage with Prime Minister David Cameron at one point stepping-in to offer military assitance to BAA.

The regulator the Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA, has confirmed there will be no fines over the recent Heathrow chaos.

The proposal for the airport legislation is currently being finalised and it is not year clear when it will come to parliament.

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