Julian Bray Aviation expert writes: Hundreds of air passengers spent the night at Stansted Airport when Ryanair and other airlines cancelled flights, due to adverse weather conditions, so bad that the Met Office issued a Yellow warning for that part of Essex. Driving instantly freezing rain and a heavy dump of snow were the main culprits, with a thin film of ice over the whole of airside runway and taxiway surfaces. Tonight it is expected to be the coldest night of the year... Julian Bray will be live in the studio on BBC Radio Essex just after 5pm, with his thoughts on how the Airport is coping...
The rain turning to ice on contact with the already frozen runway surface and aircraft wings icing up and needing de-icing crews to make the aircraft fit to fly. The runway was closed for just 50 minutes for a complete runway clearance which by industry standards is rated as pretty good.
But that was not the view of those waiting for aircraft that were no longer heading for the Essex airport. The problem (again) seems to rest with the airport partners sub-contracted staff who operate the luggage conveyors and carry out the transfers from and to the aircraft waiting on the airside apron.
There also seems to have been a breakdown in communications between the various agency sub-contractors over making managers and safety officials available so the baggage handlers could carry out their duties.
Runway engineers only closed the main runway for a period of 50 minutes and in that time, cleared the runway of snow and freezing slush; de-icing crews tacked any aircraft still at the airport, but inside the airport terminal, the passenger handling systems seem to have totally failed, just as they did when Ryanair cancelled an earlier series of fights due to the pilot shortage over a timetable meltdown.
The gate staff are not directly employed by the airport nor are the baggage handlers, so airport operations has little direct power to intervene with the detail of the sub-contracted services.
Clearly airport management is now URGED to have a top-level rethink over the sub-contracted part of passenger handling; and possibly become more directly involved with all aspects of passenger care, when passengers are physically on the airport footprint, and not rely on arms-length sub-contracted third parties to carry the burden when things go wrong, as they have on several occasions recently.
So its Curates egg - good in parts -well done runway engineers clearing the surfaces in just 50 minutes, but not so well done everyone else, in fact, a total 'Horlicks' over the terminal operations, lack of information, too few bottles of water being handed out, and a pretty tatty 'duty of care' response towards the delayed passengers.
Perhaps the Manchester parent company should immediately send down a heavyweight senior management team to sort out what is becoming an all too often shambles; and at the busiest time of the year? And while they are at it, lease in some extra state-of-the-art snow blowing kit....it might not stack up financially on a dry technical bean-counters spreadsheet, but from an airport PR point of view it should pay huge dividends especially if the new kit painted day-glo yellow and conspicuously parked up where all incoming passengers can see it is ready for action.. Happy New Year....
Note: Stansted Airport makes the point that organisations we term sub-contractors are not employed by airport management, but work in partnership with a multiplicity of contractually related enterprises, such as individual airlines and service providers. Thy also suggest the 'duty of care ' towards passengers rests with the airlines concerned as they are passengers contracted with the airline and not with the airport. Happy to make that clear JB
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