BAA to investigate snow chaos at Heathrow

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London Heathrow operator BAA is to open a formal inquiry into its response to the severe winter weather which heavily disrupted services at the UK hub.

It follows European transport commissioner Siim Kallas' insistence that airport operators should explain their failure to deal with recent heavy snowfall.

The BAA inquiry will feature an external international panel of specialists, including airline and airport representatives, and headed by independent non-executive director David Begg.

Among the airports represented will be Montreal and Winnipeg, and the panel will also hear from the former chiefs of Newark and Zurich airports.

BAA says the report will be published in March next year. It says the panel will have a "far-reaching brief to look at the planning, execution and recovery from the difficult weather conditions", notably the effect on Heathrow operations around 18 December.

The airport operator is investing another £10 million ($15 million) in airside operations to "bolster winter resilience" and provide additional vehicles.

"The enquiry will forensically examine what went wrong at Heathrow, and look fundamentally at our ability to prepare and respond more effectively to periods of bad weather at an airport operating at its maximum capacity," says BAA chief Colin Matthews.

BAA chairman Sir Nigel Rudd adds that the inquiry is a "powerful statement of BAA's intention to respond quickly to recent events".