Kallas demands explanation for airports' failure to handle snow

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European transport commissioner Siim Kallas is prepared to impose minimum service requirements on airports after criticising an apparent lack of support to airlines during severe snow conditions across the continent.

Kallas says that the level of disruption from the snowfall has been "unacceptable" and "should not happen again".

"I have become increasingly concerned about the problems relating to the infrastructure available to airlines - airports and ground-handling - during this severe period of snow," he says.

"It seems at this stage that this is a 'weak link' in a chain which, under pressure, is contributing to severe disruption."

Snow has resulted in problems at several airports, notably London Heathrow which has been struggling to deal with runway closures and a backlog of flights. Other airports have faced shortages of de-icing fluid.

While some airport operators have claimed the snow levels are unprecedented, Kallas is unsympathetic. He says that snow in Western Europe is "not such an exceptional circumstance" and that airports need to "get serious" regarding planning for severe weather.

He says he will convene a meeting with airport representatives in the next few days to seek an explanation for the problems and "take a hard look" at measures necessary to ensure they operate more effectively under such conditions.

"If there is a need for support from the European Commission in terms of regulation on minimum service requirements for airports in this area, I am prepared to do that," adds Kallas.

"Better preparedness, in line with what is done in Northern Europe, is not an optional extra, it must be planned for and with the necessary investment, particularly on the side of the airports."