I once met a guy in the States who told me that he had had a wonderful vacation in London - 'and we never saw fog once'. He had clearly expected those gas-lit scenes captioned 'London, 1888' that used to open Jack-the-Ripper movies, but which have rarely been seen since the Clean Air Act of 1948. But this week they were back - a freak high pressure system has kept the whole country under a Dickensian blanket for four days.
British Airways has cancelled, on average, more than 200 flights a day. (Only the less profitable ones, that is – not the long-haul flights, which seem to land and take off without problems.)
So more than 40 years after they proudly demonstrated completely blind take-off and land capability, almost every domestic flight and many short-haul ones have been cancelled and people who thought they were on their way to the sun for Christmas are shivering in tents outside the airport.
The reason, say BA and BAA, (aka ABBA) is that LHR is already working at over 98% of capacity, so the slightest disruption throws it into chaos. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Yes, you’ve got it – we need a new runway!
The DG suggests that the whole shambles could be about getting approval for Runway Three and crushing those sentimental Luddites who don’t want to see their 1,000-year-old church bulldozed. (See Getting the Pip.)
A number of observations tend to support this hypothesis:
1. The Spanish-owned monopoly is claiming that 50,000 jobs will be lost if they don’t get another runway (- and all those aircraft will go and pollute some other country?)
2. Madrid flights have been only slightly affected – they’re flying 747’s on the Madrid run to help clear clear the backlog.
3. Without any sign of the fog lifting, BA promised yesterday that all flights will be flying normally after mid-day today. How could they know that?
4. BA’s CEO is Willie Walsh. (See October 6 re diminutive first names.)
Strangely, ABBA say that the main reason for the chaos is that reduced visibility causes more congestion for aircraft on the ground. (How does a third runway help this?)
Glad I’m not a cynic.