Residents affected by noise have forced Heathrow to cut short flight path trials
This is the latest in a series of PR disasters for the airport and calls into question their leadership and strategy as they seek to add a third runway against massive opposition.
Since late August people have been suddenly finding planes taking off and landing over areas they never have before.
For example, in Richmond in South West London, planes are coming ever closer to the town centre and many takeoffs are at a much lower altitude. Meaning more noise and air pollution.
Many towns and villages in a wide area around Heathrow have been similarly affected.
On 28th August Heathrow started flight path trials, testing if flight paths could be concentrated, over flying slightly fewer people – but creating far more noise for those now under the narrow flight paths, used by more planes.
Heathrow has been swamped by complaints about the trials all summer. They took to twitter to say they could not cope. The airport has now caved in under the pressure and cut short the trials by almost 3 months.
As soon as the trials began people were upset, disturbed and annoyed at the noise misery that had been perpetrated upon them. Protests rapidly sprang up in the Richmond, Ascot, Windlesham, Lightwater, Bagshot, Teddington, Twickenham and other areas.
Heathrow was stunned by, and swamped by, the number of complaints, and not able to cope.
Astonishingly, Heathrow said “We didn’t think you’d notice”.
Now, as a damage-limitation exercise, Heathrow has announced it will cut its trials short, ending on 12th November, rather than the original end date of 26th January 2015.
In addition, other trials due to start on 28th October will be postponed till autumn 2015.
Is Heathrow trying to be too clever by cutting short the trials?
Some say that these decisions have been taken:
- to ensure there is less protest about flight paths between now and the UK General Election in May 2015
- to avoid bad publicity before the Airports Commission decision on a new runway, expected sometime after May 2015
Others say Heathrow management are not that good and it is just a panic reaction to a very badly handled situation.
Other recent Heathrow PR disasters
This is the latest in a number of PR disasters for Heathrow recently.
- claiming Heathrow would decline to become a feeder airport for Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt without a third runway – a claim later denied by the new Heathrow CEO
- sending ridiculously biased questionnaires to residents, so bad that most people throw them away as junk
- running full page adverts in UK newspapers virtually claiming the future of UK children depends on a third runway at Heathrow
- Matt Gorman, sustainability director of Heathrow, “We didn’t go as far as sending letters out to all the people that would be affected as we did not feel people would notice any change.”
If Heathrow is ever going to have a chance of adding a third runway or increasing the numbers of flights or adding new night flights then it has to get the residents of greater West London on its side.
Recent events show that Heathrow seems unable to do that.