Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Bit of a Dump

I may have underestimated the cleverness of BAA, when I criticized the pointless security delays at Heathrow in previous posts. BAA gets a fair proportion of its revenue from retailers in its airports, but obviously passengers aren't going to be shopping while they are stuck in a queue. So the clever trick is to delay the air crew, which delays the flights, leaving the passengers with nothing better to do than shop. Aircrew go through a separate security check, which is always understaffed, and can easily take an hour or more.

On a BBC radio programme broadcast this evening, an American Airlines executive complained bitterly about the failures at Heathrow, which he described as "a bit of a dump". [BBC File On Four, 29 April 2008] EasyJet doesn't operate out of Heathrow, so an EasyJet manager complained about Gatwick instead.

BAA of course points the blame elsewhere: it's the regulators, it's the lack of capacity, it's the job market, you've got to remember that Heathrow is more complex than other airports. As I explained in my previous post Regulated Asset Base, BAA makes more money from building new assets than by operating the existing assets cost-effectively. Indeed, this means it has a real incentive to run Heathrow and Gatwick badly, if this has the effect of persuading planners that more capacity is needed. Clever.

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