Gatwick expansion case weakened by XMAS chaos

Gatwick stranded many passengers on Christmas Eve.

Gatwick has made a new apology to passengers left stranded on Christmas Eve, after it emerged that the airport’s chief executive was on holiday as staff struggled to find enough bus drivers to move passengers leaving passengers stranded for up to 12 hours in “Third World” conditions.

Gatwick Christmas chaos
Gatwick Christmas chaos

Since Gatwick was sold by BAA (now Heathrow) it has worked hard to improve the image of and service at the airport. But a lot of that effort has been undone by the poor performance by the airport at Christmas.

Passengers complained in particular about the lack of information. Surely in this age information is the one thing that should not be lacking.

The cause of the problem was flooding that led to a power outage in the North Terminal. Some 62 departures and 59 arrivals were cancelled and passengers complained they were kept in the dark as other services were switched to the south terminal. The police asked staff to leave the crowded baggage halls as they tried to calm angry passengers.

EasyJet, Gatwick’s biggest customer, accused the West Sussex airport of failing to respond quickly enough to the crisis at its north terminal, in an ill-tempered hearing in front of the Commons Transport Select Committee on Tuesday. EasyJet lost £2 million from the fiasco, MPs were told.

MPs on the Transport Select Committee questioned whether the flooding would weaken the airport’s case for a second runway. Gatwick CEO, Mr Wingate, was emphatic that it would not, saying that Gatwick had an ‘exceptionally strong case’.

Gatwick was last month short-listed by Sir Howard Davies’s Airports Commission as one of two possible locations to build new runway capacity in the South East of England.