back to article BA flights website grounded by snow

British Airways' website was up and down this morning, which is still more than can be said for its aircraft. The UK's flag carrier's terrible weekend carried on right into Monday, as its shiny new base at Heathrow was snowbound with few flights taking off, and fewer still arriving – in common with the rest of the airport it …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward

    Apparently BA's IT janitors also are its real janitors.

    So they must be plenty busy doing overtime in heathrow, right now.

    The one in eyesearing white-striped yellow, thanks.

  2. The Wegie

    Bloody BA

    Best of all, when the site was actually responding, the "check my flight" page was completely dead. The only way of getting any details about what was actually flying was to use the mobile site -- when the mobile site was actually working, of course. The load balancing on their website sucks.

    I have a short haul flight booked with BA tomorrow afternoon. I'm not feeling optimistic.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Facetious Comment

      Well, if it's only short-haul, I suppose you'll be able to walk.

      (but seriously: good luck!)

  3. JaitcH

    BA and BAA - made for each other

    BA is not/never was the world's favourite airline and serial mismanagement have reduced the airline to a shadow of it's former corporate entity. If BA was ordered to bring it's employees pension fund contributions up to date it would have declare bankruptcy.

    This, of course, is not the case with Wee Wiily Walshes benefits package, unsurprisingly.

    As for BAA Heathrow, allegedly Britain's 'gateway' airport, it is little less than a scandal.

    The last weather that equalled this recent weather disturbance was 20 years ago, according to the Met Office, and Heathrow has precious little to show for what some of the highest airport fees in the world.

    Photographs of the snow are ample evidence that it has failed. Airports such as Toronto or Montreal are used to dealing with metres of snow. Until recently, Montreal airport had more snow clearing equipment than the City of Montreal.

    The government should terminate the BAA Heathrow 'for cause' and re-tender the contract, which should have all weather performance written in to the contract. This is not difficult to accomplish be it with equipment purchases or retainer agreements that guarantee snow clearance equipment is available.

    In any event, I hope those stranded at airports make it to a home or hotel for Christmas.

    1. raivn

      hold on a second

      the trouble with buying snow clearing equipment is that its expensive to maintain and would only be used a few days of the year.

      renting/leasing it isn't much better because everyone will want to use it on the one snowy day of the year.

      1. Tempest

        @ hold on a second

        The idea behind the 'retainer' is that whomever pays the most gets the equipment 'on demand' whenever, wherever, whatever.

        Since Britain's construction sites seem to cool off a little in inclement weather the equipment is likely more available.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Alister


      You are typical of the unrealistic whingers who piss me off.

      You yourself say "The last weather that equalled this recent weather disturbance was 20 years ago, according to the Met Office", but then you go on to say "Airports such as Toronto or Montreal are used to dealing with metres of snow. Until recently, Montreal airport had more snow clearing equipment than the City of Montreal."

      You totally miss the point. Toronto or Montreal know that they can expect similar levels of snow each year, and therefore it makes economic sense to keep a massive fleet of snow-clearance equipment.

      Heathrow have sufficient levels of equipment and expertise to deal with the normal expected snowfall for Britain, but this is, of course not sufficient to deal with the unprecedented level of snowfall, and low temperatures, that Britain is currently experiencing.

      It would make no economic sense, and they would be roundly criticised by all, if Heathrow and other UK airports maintained a sufficiently large pool of equipment to deal with Toronto-like levels of snowfall, when Britain doesn't normally get more than an inch or two each year.

      Of course, if Meteorologists can reliably predict that we will in future get these levels of snowfall, and the temperatures to match, then Airports, Local Authorities etc will have to consider purchasing more equipment, as well as changing how we deal with snow and ice on runways and roads. (there is no point gritting, for example, if mean temperatures never exceed -2C, as the grit won't have any effect.)

      For heavens sake stop blaming people, and companies, for an act of weather!

      1. JaitcH

        @ Nonsense

        If we were to extrapolate your concept of 'standby' or emergency' service governments could save a fortune by killing off fire and sea rescue services on the grounds they are only needed every so often.

        Perhaps you are unaware that many public works, including roads and the Thames Barrier (another waste of money using your criteria), are designed to survive any historical challengers that have occurred in the previous 50 or 100 years.

        Another example of risk input into capital expenditures have occurred into response to recent rail/tube accidents. When 31 people were fried to death at Kings Cross on 1987 November 18 as the result of a fire on a wooden escalator, a subsequent report recommended all wooden escalators be replaced with metal treads. The recommendation was rejected after cost was considered including the cost of compensating for any deaths - figured at around 2-million pounds per body.

        The present Heathrow has been at it's present location since New Years Day 1946, it was first Fairey’s Great West Aerodrome then RAF Northolt, and if BAA has it's way it will be there forever.

        This means (1) BAA has to take into account historic conditions; (2) The level of service it proposes; (3) Capital investment needed to achieve these goals.

        Even if an event occurs every 20 or 30 years BAA has to take it in to consideration. Notwithstanding BA's attempts to increase the accident count (2008 BA flight crash-landed) BAA still maintains a very expensive fire service that spend months, even years, waiting for the next crash.

        The provisioning of this fire service, and even snow removal equipment, is based on historical demand, and proposed service levels. BAA claims Heathrow is a 'world class' airport, it doesn't claim any exceptions. Therefore it has failed in it's duty. It matters not an iota whether the interruption is caused by a humans or Nature exercising it's options.

        Talking about 'whingers', you might want to canvas the opinion of those people sitting it out in the airport. They might have different opinions to yours.

        The cost of capital equipment, amortised over 50 years or more, might look like a real bargain when stacked up against airline costs (including repositioning empty planes), BAA losses and added costs, passenger losses and added costs and losses to the general economy.

        Only people with a myopic viewpoint can't see why BAA failed.

        P.S. Where I am has a temperature of 35c, the sun is shining and the drinks are long and cool. But the BBC World Service TV makes us appreciate our luck!

  4. Stratman


    Listening to the radio last night it would appear much of the problem lies with a 'who does what' dispute.

    The Elfin Safety chapter of the baggage handlers and loaders won't work around the planes until the snow and ice on the stands is cleared away. BAA say it's the airlines responsibility. BA says it's the airport's responsibility. As usual, everyone knows what they don't have to do.

  5. Joe Harrison

    Don't knock BA

    Two weeks ago it was Central Europe's turn to have its airports frozen and (along with thousands of other Brits) I was stuck in an airport sleeping on the floor. The foreign carrier I was booked on was not that bothered how long I was marooned there but BA put on a few special "Brit-extraction" flights with 747-type planes to get everyone out. Kudos to BA I could have kissed them when I saw that uncomfortable blue economy class seat.

  6. /\/\j17

    Wasn't doing very well last night either

    10:30pm I received a txt from BA saying my 7AM flight was cancelled. A bummer, yes but the pre-warning was welcome so I logged on to the website to re-arrange for a later flight...but I couldn't.

    Apparently I'd already travelled on the outward leg of my return flight...that wasn't scheduled to take off for another 8 hours....and had been cancelled an hour previously so wasn't actually going to take off anyway.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  8. davenewman

    BMI website no better in a crises

    You could find out which flights had been cancelled, but if you went to the "Manage my bookings page", you were told you couldn't change the details of the cancelled flight. And if you tried to cancel (and catch a bus) you were told to ring the call centre. They seem to have designed that page to NOT be able to cope with emergencies.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    And the Web worked the best

    My daughter was trying to change planes at Heathrow on Friday. Still there, but in a hotel at least. Midnight Friday all customer service clerks went home, leaving a long line for Saturday morning at 5:30 AM. When that rolled around they had 3 on - with 3 more standing around waiting for their official start time. And later that day the police came - just before BA decided to do all booking by phone or on the web, without bothering to tell anyone in line.

    The website, which at least worked on Saturday, wouldn't let you change a flight in progress, and the phone lines were either busy or would hang up on you. This includes the numbers in Germany, the US, Australia and South Africa.

    Most people's baggage is sitting in a big heap in Terminal 5. Yesterday they weren't letting anyone except those on the seven open flights into the terminal.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'World's Favourite Airline'

    I'm pretty sure they stopped using that slogan a few years ago, mainly on the grounds that their crapulent service, ramshackle aircraft and enthusiastic refusal to follow something so simple as a timetable was opening them up for legal action.

    If I didn't have quite so many Air Miles with them I'd gladly never use BA again.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Heathrow. BA. BAA. All eggs. One basket. One basketcase - Walsh

    Before Walsh, BA was a British airline. You didn't have to live near the M25 for it to be relevant, although it did help.

    Post Walsh, anyone outside M25 commuterland looking to make a long distance flight would be better off travelling from their regional airport (not by BA, obviously) to somewhere on the continent where they can (a) make their onward connection even when there's an inch or two of snow (b) still have a clue about running an airport as a place for passengers rather than an overpriced (in every sense) captive-audience retail opportunity with a bit of security theatre to look forward to before you finally get on the plane.

    How many A380s does it take to empty T5 ? Can't BA get some in and just use them to ferry everyone to a European airport that still has a clue? Or even just park them at LHR and use them as places for passengers to sleep till the spring thaw comes? I believe Qantas have some they're not using.

    Merry Christmas everyone. Except Willie Walsh and Ferrovial.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "sparking into life and taking long periods of lying down"

    That's a pretty good description of the entire London transport network during NORMAL operations.

    God help anyone living in Zone 6 trying to get home after ~11:55pm for less than 60 pounds.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Nonsense" is nonsense

    And you, Alister, are typical of the economic rationalists who piss me off !

    AIrports, like electricity, gas, water, sewerage and communications are part of the essential infrastructure needed for an economically advanced country to function.

    You say that "Heathrow have sufficient levels of equipment and expertise to deal with the normal expected snowfall for Britain, but this is, of course not sufficient to deal with the unprecedented level of snowfall, and low temperatures, that Britain is currently experiencing."

    But this is patently false. Why is it taking so long to get aircraft flying again ? Because there's insufficient investment in the equipment and manpower needed to keep an essential service running. The economic rationalist's argument is that minimal investment is warranted, but this ignores the enormous economic cost to the UK economy as a whole caused by even a single day's disruption. But then the privatised airport doesn't bear this cost, so why should they care ? Maybe this pervasive "Greed is good, and sod you" attitude is the reason why the UK economy is currently such a basket case ?

    1. Alister

      "Nonsense is nonsense" - is nonsense...

      I am not an "economic rationalist" by any means - in fact I am actively against those who profess the "Greed is good, and sod you" attitude.

      I agree entirely with you that AIrports, like electricity, gas, water, sewerage and communications are part of the essential infrastructure needed for an economically advanced country to function.

      Oh, and I would add Healthcare in there as well, which you missed.

      The point I am trying to make is that we cannot expect any organisation to suddenly have the resources to deal with an unprecedented amount of snow - and it is unprecedented, where I live in the north midlands of England, we have had more snow (two foot deep where it lies - not drifts), and consistently lower temperatures, than we have experienced for over 40 years. This morning, the outside temperature is -9C, and the sun is shining. Overnight, we have had temperatures of as low as -18C. We haven't had one day, in the last three weeks, where the outside temperature has risen above freezing (0C).

      In conditions like these, all the normal methods that this country uses to deal with the average temperatures and snowfall we expect each year are completely inadequate. You can't use salt to clear the ice, because the temperatures are so low. We don't know how to deal with these sorts of weather conditions, and we don't have the equipment in place.

      You cannot realistically expect any company, or local authority, to put in place sufficient equipment and manpower to cater for a circumstance that may only happen once in a lifetime.

      This is not "economic rationalisation" it is "common sense". a trait which seems sadly lacking in most people nowadays.

      1. Tempest

        Equipped for worst case scenario, not too gard

        Even though there hasn't been any significant additions of snow, according to Bloomberg Biz TV, for 3 days, it was only today BAA managed to separate parked aircraft from the walkways.

        BAA doesn't need more money, it needs competent management - and to concentrate of moving passengers rather than more stores.

        As pointed out above, normal is not the goal - worst case is. If BAA's worst case is a few inches of snow and a few degrees below freezing they are unfit for purpose.

        If you had studied runway clearance you would know that you first plough the runway using multiple blades running parallel; then you use rotating brushes followed by urea - not salt; then a final repeat brushing.

        You said: "We don't know how to deal with these sorts of weather conditions" - that's the problem with BAA, ignorance. Other countries have no problem dealing with greater amounts of snow which means BAA has absolutely no excuse for the few paltry inches in London.

        You CAN "realistically" expect any company to do this, if a company in Europe or Canada can do it; it's just that BAA is a cash cow for it's Spanish owners who don't care squat about this abject failure nor British travellers.

      2. Arthur Dent

        "nonsens isNonsense" is NOT nonsense

        Alister, this is not somethiong that happens once per generation at Heathrow. Last year (2009) flights were cancelled because of snow at Heathrow in February and in December. It happened also in February 2008. In recent years the average number of periods of flight cancellations at Heathrow caused by snow is more than one per year. So basing your ideas about the economics of having clearing equipment available on some crackpot theory that it happens only once in fifty years is not "common sense", a trait which you appear to be sadly lacking, but pure nonsense.

  14. Tempest
    Thumb Up

    All SMART TRAVELLERS, who used a TRAVEL AGENT, need do is to ...

    call or e-mail their travel agent, who can access their reservation on line, and all the modifications, etc. can be done simply on their GDS terminals. Including cancellations. Travel agents offer such a bargain for their fees in view of what they can achieve without worrying you, the passenger.

    Those passengers who unwisely booked through BA directly are S.O.O.L.

    Of course, if Wee Willy Walsh had any smarts he would have grouped all those cell numbers on the res screen by flight number and he would have his techies sending out SMS messages. But being BA .....

  15. SharkNose

    Not expensive to keep LHR going

    LHR handles what, 70m + passengers a year? An extra £5 levy per passenger for guaranteed operation in bad weather buys a hell of a lot of snow clearing equipment (especially amortised over 5 or 10 years) as well as a bunch of people to operate said equiptment.

    Would I pay £5 extra on my ticket to not have lost 2 days of holiday? Hell yes.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    It's going to be 38oC here on Xmas day

    Sorry, I just had to write that.

  17. andrewmo


    and heir phone line is constantly engaged or not answered.

    Call to action - recommend all your travel departments to avoid bookings with BA

This topic is closed for new posts.