14-Dec-2010 10:33 AM

AEA criticises recent shutdown of airports across Europe

Association of European Airlines (AEA) Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus criticised (13-Dec-2010) European airports for reacting slowly and lacking equipment required to cope with recent heavy snow conditions across the continent. A number of airports have been forced to close as a result. Mr Schulte-Strathaus admitted reaction to these weather conditions should be a co-operative effort, involving airports, ground handlers, the airlines and the passengers. But when disruption occurs, and passengers do not receive the service they have paid for, inevitably they seek explanations from their airlines. As a result, AEA called on the European Commission to establish clear responsibilities of all concerned, so that in the case of massive service disruption, passengers do not have unrealistic expectations and if airports, ground handling companies or other stakeholders fail to deliver the service expected of them, they are held liable. Mr Schulte-Strathaus stated Europe’s airlines compete globally, which means that they cannot afford to be burdened by inefficiencies specific to their core market. [more]

ACI EUROPE responded (13-Dec-2010) stating AEA’s remarks reflected a disappointing grasp of the truly exceptional nature of the circumstances and their diverse impact. According to ACI, the snowfall that recently paralysed not just airports but the entire transport systems in several parts of Europe was the heaviest in more than 20 years. In addition, localised meteorological conditions such as fluctuating temperatures and inconsistent visibility exposed individual airports to specific operational difficulties directly relating to safety – including de-icing procedures. This explains why the extent of the disruption varied from airport to airport. The authority stated for airports, safety is paramount. ACI stated that in working collaboratively with their airlines, ground handlers and air navigation service providers, the airports affected did their utmost to minimise disruptions and ensure the continuity of services, working around the clock and deploying additional staff. They also catered to the needs of distressed passengers.[more]

Association of European Airlines: “No-one doubts that a severe blizzard can close an airport, nor that it takes time for a heavy snowfall to be cleared from runways and aircraft to be de-iced. But it does appear that a number of major airports have been taken by surprise during recent days, have reacted slowly or have lacked the equipment needed to cope with the conditions. Others, equally affected by the weather, have performed excellently, showing that adverse weather need not necessarily disrupt operations. The whole fabric of passenger-rights legislation automatically places the responsibility of delivering a satisfactory outcome to the customer on the airlines, whether or not they were the cause of the disruption, whether the cause lay elsewhere along the value chain, or whether the disruption was genuinely exceptional and unavoidable,” Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General. Source: Association of European Airlines, 13-Dec-2010.

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