Airports: Coping with winter snow - statement by EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas

08/02/2012

Cruise ship Golden Princess (not Costa Concordia)

Snow and extreme weather conditions, particularly record low temperatures, have been severely affecting different parts of Europe over the last week.

It has been a difficult time for the travelling public, as well as for the industry - airports, airlines and partners - trying to deliver a quality service to their passengers in these conditions.

Last year's performance was not good enough. I made it very clear that airports needed to raise their game and set out a series of areas where action was needed to ensure much better preparation by the aviation community for winter weather.

So how are we doing this year? It is still early days. We may have more extreme weather to come. But at this preliminary stage, we see "significant improvements" in particular in terms of the airports' winter snow preparedness.

Based on our initial feedback from the airports, the airlines and preliminary assessments from Eurocontrol (the Network Manager) we see improvements in terms of:

Infrastructure: The infrastructure to deal with snow and extreme winter conditions in airports has improved. Investments made over the last year are paying off - in terms of, for example, the necessary de-icing equipment, and snow clearing equipment available.

Procedures: We see improvements in terms of the winter snow procedures in place in airports - to clear runways of snow more quickly, and taxiways, and in terms of faster de-icing procedures.

Snow Planning: There are improvements in terms of the snow planning and co-ordination within the airports. We see better co-ordination by the airports operators of the different actors involved in crisis management including ground handlers, airlines etc). Where necessary pre-emptive cancellation and rescheduling of flights has been actively implemented

Passenger information: Improvements in passenger information, by airlines and airports, have also been notable, particularly when compared to the situation in December 2010. The information flow, and accurate, real time information to passengers has been considerably improved – allowing in many cases passengers to avoid coming to airports.

Coping with the flight disruption/ network management: Coping with disruption on the network, goes to the heart of preventing travel disruption for passengers. There has been a significant improvement in terms of the co-ordination between the network manager (Eurocontrol), the airports, airlines and National Air Traffic Managers (ANSPs). This has allowed the Network Manager to minimise the impact on the European air transport network, to manage available capacity on the network more efficiently and, where necessary assist the diversion and priority repositioning of flights.

Snow does not obey any rules. But winter does come every year and we should be prepared for it. In winter 2010-11 heavy snow caused chaos for passengers across Europe.

This year's extreme conditions are different to those we saw last year – but they are still very challenging. We do see already that lessons have been learnt.

This progress has benefited passengers in 2012- allowing many more to travel safely and uninterrupted on their journeys.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and look forward to further improvements which can and must be made to further increase the resilience of the system in 2012 and beyond.

More information:

Airports: Coping with winter snow - statement by EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas [MEMO/12/84]

VP Kallas remarks on winter snow December 2011

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