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The report by the Commons Transport Committee into the chaos seen at Gatwick on Christmas Eve 2013 is a stark reminder of the need not only to plan but to involve every interested party in planning and testing scenarios. Praised the previous winter for its ability to keep the runways open in the face of snow and ice, this time Gatwick’s response to flooding could have been better. Key failure points identified in the report included:
Ironically, the problem seems to have been exacerbated by a ‘can do’ attitude which sought to get as many flights away as possible. The committee’s conclusion was that had more flights been cancelled earlier in the day passengers would have been able to make alternative travel plans and the airport would have been able to process a higher percentage of the rest. This led the committee to conclude that a can do attitude “need to be tempered with sober reflection on a day of difficulty as to what infrastructure and staff are available … and what this means it is possible to deliver on that day”.
Whilst on the ground staff including baggage handlers were praised for their efforts the overall conclusion was that “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 report may be aimed at the air transport industry but its emphasis on planning, communication and putting passengers first should also be a wake-up call for every organisation.