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Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport
Statement on winter snow preparedness – airports
Brussels, 16 December 2011
Snow has returned to northern Europe, although the forecasters say this year may not be as bad as 2010.
I am sure many of you will remember the snow chaos last Christmas.
Overall, 35,000 flights were cancelled – more than in the whole of 2009.
Tens of thousands of people were stranded. And there were major problems with baggage handling.
Over the last twelve months we have had a number of meetings with representatives of major European airports.
I made it clear in January that they needed to raise their game.
I am pleased to say that their response has been positive. Serious deficiencies and weak links have been identified and are being addressed.
We have detailed reports from the major hubs on their preparedness for winter operations (or "snowhow" as it is called in the Nordic countries).
Heathrow, for example, tell us they have three times more snow ploughs, trained drivers and other necessary equipment – and they are really better prepared.
We have the same message from the other key airports most involved in the winter snow disruption last year, including Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt.
In addition, the ACI (Airports Council International) assure me that all the airports affected by heavy now last year have taken serious steps to reinforce their preparedness and resilience.
Since the crisis, the whole aviation chain has also worked together to improve passenger information at airports. And to use social media to make sure that more people don't come to the airports without any reason if there are no flights going.
I have taken note of serious efforts made by the airports and I am reassured.
However, we will keep monitoring the situation closely.
Of course, in very extreme conditions, transport will be disrupted or even grind to a halt. The weather does not obey rules any more than volcanic ash does.
But what matters to the travelling public and businesses is that in typical winter conditions they can continue to fly safely and on-time.
I very much hope that the contingency planning put in place by the airports this year will be sufficient. After all, contingency planning for winter should be normal business practice for any sector.
If it is not enough, we may consider further additions to the airport package of legislation that is already on the table.
But this would be a last resort.
In the meantime, to those of you hoping for a white Christmas – I hope you all get home to enjoy it!