Gatwick airport was taken by surprise yesterday morning when an unexpected flurry passed over the area. Even though just a fraction of an inch of snow actually landed on the tarmac, the airport decided it would be best to shut down all flight operations.
Of course, when over 100 flights are either heading towards Gatwick or getting ready to depart, you can understand that the mess was quite considerable.
Gatwick is in the regrettable situation of only having a single runway for all flight operations, despite being the second busiest airport in the UK, and the busiest single runway airport in the world.
It took airport operators 5 hours to get the ice and snow cleared, and allow airlines to arrive or depart again.
By then the damage had already been done. Major carriers had already diverted flights to neighbouring airports, including airlines who don’t even have operations at those airports. I briefly spoke to someone at Ghana International Airlines who saw their Accra flight end up in London Stansted instead of London Gatwick.
Flightstats now has the flight listed as having to reposition to Gatwick tomorrow morning, which is probably a better situation than having to load 200 passengers and crew on a bus.
None of this helps improve the image of BAA, the UK’s airport operating authority. The agency is already under fire, and was recently ordered to pay airlines back for failing to provide adequate service.
(Thanks to Chris for the tip, via Telegraph.co.uk)