Gatwick chaos a wake up call for all UK airports

Gatwick chaos 'a wake-up call'

The Christmas Eve chaos at Gatwick Airport should be "a wake-up call for airports across the UK" in tackling disruption, a report by MPs has said.

More than 11,000 travellers were affected by delays and cancellations on December 24 after flooding caused a power failure at the West Sussex airport.

In a report today into the Gatwick problems, the House of Commons Transport Committee said that passengers had told of: poor and often inconsistent provision of information about what was happening; lack of clarity about who was in charge; a lack of basic facilities, such as toilets and drinking water; confusion about what expenses passengers could be reimbursed for, particularly if alternative flights had to be arranged.

The committee's report said: "The problems at Gatwick at Christmas Eve should be a wake-up call for airports across the UK to get on top of operational resilience issues.

"Disruption of whatever nature should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first."

The committee said there was a wider problem "with complex EU legislation on passenger rights to compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled".

The report went on: "We recommend that Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) bring forward proposals by the autumn for improving the provision of information to passengers about their rights at times of disruption.

"We also recommend that the Government push for amendment to the proposed new EU regulation on this issue to include electronic means of alert and information dissemination."

Launching the report today, the committee's chairman Louise Ellman said: "Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water.

"If our largest airports cannot demonstrate they can look after passengers' interests in this way then the CAA must act."

She went on: "Passengers must also be promptly reimbursed for the extra costs they face as a consequence of disruption.

"It was clear from evidence to this inquiry that there is considerable scope for airlines to ensure passengers are far better informed about their rights when flights are delayed or cancelled and how to enforce these rights."

The committee welcomed a key conclusion from Gatwick's own review of the events on Christmas Eve which found the airport should appoint passenger champions at each of its terminals, to focus on passenger welfare.

The committee suggested that similar arrangements should also be put in place at other major UK airports.

Shadow aviation minister Gordon Marsden said: "It's clear from this report that we need a step change to ensure passengers are made the priority in air travel.

"Despite the efforts of individual staff, management failures left passengers in the dark over the fate of their flights and compensation. The Government must be far more proactive in improving passenger experience."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: "Passengers rightly expect to be kept informed during circumstances such as those at Gatwick this winter, and it is important that the airport carefully considers these recommendations and takes the necessary steps to increase the resilience of the airport to future flooding and heavy rainfall.

"Other airports should also learn lessons from this report."

UK's best (and worst) airports
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Gatwick chaos a wake up call for all UK airports

The worst airport in the UK is Aberdeen Airport according to British travellers. The airport, which handles more than three million passengers per year, was given the thumbs down for its facilities including its baggage carousel area, which passengers said is in need of updating.

Luton Airport is in at number 14 and is the least favourite London airport for UK travellers. It's the fifth busiest UK airport and serves as a base for airlines such as easyJet, Monarch and Thomson Airways. One passenger wrote on airline review website Skytrax: "As a frequent flyer all I can say is how embarrassing this airport is as a gateway to our country."

London City Airport is small compared to the capital's four other international airports and is mainly used by business travellers. Passengers said the airport has "expensive parking," although it does offer free WiFi for all. The airport is busiest during the winter months when most airlines fly to top ski destinations.

London Stansted Airport is not the most favoured UK airport by British travellers and was blasted for its "extremely long queues at check-in". The airport located in Essex is the largest base for budget carrier Ryanair, with over 100 destinations served by the airline. In 2012, it was named the fourth busiest airline in the UK after Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

Formerly known as Aldergrove Airport, Belfast International Airport lies near the village of Aldergrove in Northern Ireland. It's the busiest airport in Northern Ireland and is the second busiest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin Airport. Malaga, Faro and Alicante are the most popular international routes to and from Belfast International Airport, while Liverpool, Gatwick and Stansted are the busiest domestic routes.

Bristol Airport in North Somerset handles over 5.9 million passengers a year, with Amsterdam, Dublin and Edinburgh the most popular flight routes. It has one of the shortest international airport runways in the country at just 2,011 metres in length, which means large planes are rarely, preventing most long-distance flights.

Located in North West Leicestershire, East Midlands Airport serves the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire. The airport has established itself as a hub for low-cost carriers, like, Ryanair and Monarch.

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland's busiest airport and its upgraded terminal building features new car parking facilities and a larger arrivals hall. There are plans for expansion at the airport, with passenger numbers expected to reach a whopping 26 million per year by 2030.

In at number seven is Glasgow Airport, which is located six miles west of the city centre and is Scotland's second busiest airport and the eighth busiest in Britain. The airlines with the biggest presence are British Airways and Loganair, and the busiest routes are the Netherlands, the UAE, Spain and Ireland.

Named after a famous Beatle, Liverpool John Lennon Airport picked up the sixth spot, connecting travellers to UK and European destinations. Around 4.5 million passengers pass through the airport each year. While there is no train station at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, there are shuttle buses from Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Hunts Cross.

Britain's busiest airport Heathrow was named the fifth best overall, but was voted the easiest airport to get to and from. Although it is served by Heathrow Express, which is one of the most expensive train journeys in the world, it is also served by several low-cost options, such as London Underground, Heathrow Connect and coach services. Travellers said Heathrow has a "great variety of shops and restaurants," such as Gordon Ramsay Plane Food, The Tin Goose and The Five Tuns.

Birmingham Airport was voted the fourth best British airport. Passengers said it is "compact and customer friendly". Birmingham Airport was also named the fourth easiest airport to get to in the UK, after Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow Airports.

Newcastle Airport was voted by passengers as the easiest airport to travel through. Passengers of the airport commented on its simple layout and good choice of food and drink options, saying it is "easy to navigate and clean".

Britain's second busiest airport, London Gatwick Airport, handles more than 34 million passengers every year and came in second place, with passengers praising its friendly staff and large check-in areas.

Manchester Airport is Britain's best airport, according to UK travellers! The third busiest airport in the UK welcomes more than nine million passengers each year and hit the top spot for the best customer service, facilities and shopping, as well as the best bars and restaurants. Passengers commended it for being well organised, passenger-friendly and for its accessibility.

A new survey has revealed British travellers' favourite UK airports. The poll by Skyscanner asked 1,600 British flyers to rate the UK's airport on customer service, facilities, shopping, bars and restaurants, and ease of travelling through. Skyscanner's Victoria Bailie said the winning airport is one of Britain's busiest but "it still manages to keep passengers happy". Click through the gallery to find out which airport scooped the top spot...


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