22:08, 20 January 2013
11:56, 21 January 2013
Everyone in Britain talks constantly about the weather, observed an American visitor, who added: ‘But no one does anything about it.’ Good joke, but no one’s laughing.
How can a smattering of snow cause the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the temporary homelessness of thousands when, in countries with winters more harsh than our own, aviation continues without difficulty?
No one can explain it. Each year, we greet snow as if it was falling for the first time. Good lord, what is that cold, wet, slippery white stuff?
Stranded: Fed-up passengers in the departures hall at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 yesterday
Ongoing delays: Heathrow claims poor visibility as well as snow-clearing on the two runways slows down arrivals and departures
Sometimes, we blame forecasters for not warning us. At other times, snow-clearance equipment is blamed. Mostly it’s just hopeless excuses. As a nation we mulishly refuse to take seriously inconveniences to the travelling public.
This year, Heathrow officials from the management company and the airlines have at least got their story straight, instead of falling out among themselves as they’ve done in the past.
Their spiel goes like this: The airport is working at about 98 per cent of its capacity. Poor visibility as well as snow-clearing on the two runways slows down arrivals and departures. Safety is paramount. So some flights must be cancelled. We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience.
On Friday, 440 flights were cancelled. A further 111 were abandoned on Saturday.
How can a smattering of snow cause the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the temporary homelessness of thousands?
Perhaps I missed it, but I heard no explanation from them as to why it was necessary to hold some passengers for seven hours on a plane which didn’t take off — then return them to the terminal to sleep on the floor, or to organise hotels for themselves.
Personally, I felt lucky. The Virgin Atlantic 747 on which I was a passenger took only seven hours 20 minutes to fly 4,400 miles from Miami, averaging more than ten miles a minute. But we were held in a stack (flying in circles) over Heathrow because snow had begun to fall.
Although we didn’t catch sight of the ground until the runway hove into view through the snow flurries, our landing was smooth, the baggage came up quickly and we were clear of the airport in under an hour.
We were luckier than a passenger headed for Las Vegas, who told Radio 4 his flight was cancelled after waiting on the tarmac for six hours. Everyone on the plane was then taken off but the passengers were not able to reclaim their baggage.
Having spent Friday night in a nearby hotel, he returned to the airport on Saturday morning only to be told that he couldn’t have his bag until Sunday. Is this acceptable? Surely not.
Yesterday, flights were coming and going normally from Gatwick, but Heathrow cancelled 20 per cent of its traffic. Again it was stressed that the snow meant more time was needed between flights, which, because they were working at ‘near capacity’, meant cancellations.
No one is saying as much, but the message is clear enough — Heathrow needs another runway. Are aviation officials dragging their heels during this spell of bad weather in order to force the public to come to the same conclusion, pushing the Government to change its policy?
I doubt they are that cynical. But expanding Heathrow is a political question. The Labour government agreed to a third runway, but the Tory opposition — to please constituents in West London — came out against any more development of Heathrow. Now they’re stuck with that decision, at least until the 2015 election.
Would a third runway solve the long-running public grievance that is Heathrow Airport? Maybe not. A third runway might also be working at near capacity before long. We need expansion of all London airports, but which politician in a position to move this subject on will risk his or her career saying so?
Those who travel regularly and have experienced the full horror of cancelled flights, imprisonment on stalled planes, irretrievable luggage and sleeping on terminal floors, can and do rage against the collective failure of aviation officialdom to do anything much more than wring their hands.
Confusion: Critics said Heathrow bosses had failed to learn lessons from December 2010, when a snowstorm left the airport paralysed for days
But for every individual who rages, there might be ten or more who don’t care, who think too much fuss is made by those who fly regularly. Indeed, many are positively scornful of travellers’ trauma.
My old Scottish grannie was one of them. She would say after hearing of some calamity at sea, or in the air: ‘Aye, well they’d no business being there.’
The Children’s Reading Fund hopes to raise £2 million to support the UK’s most vulnerable children. How about adults? The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire used to read to her father, the 2nd Baron Redesdale. Once, during Thomas Hardy’s sad Tess Of The d’Urbervilles, Lord R shed a tear. ‘Oh, Daddy, it’s only a story,’ said Deborah. Redesdale, startled: ‘What?! You mean the blighter made it up?’
Gary Lineker and his wife Danielle: Lineker has deleted his Twitter account for ‘personal reasons’
The Pope and the Prime Minister have one, but Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker has now quit his Twitter account, telling 1.3 million followers: ‘I’m leaving Twitter for personal reasons. Thanks all.’
Later he said in an interview: ‘I left Twitter because it tends to take over, and I thought I would try life without it. There is nothing sinister about the decision at all.’
Lineker is said to have sent about 8,000 tweets. Will he endure his Twitter Cold Turkey, emerging into the sunny uplands of Post Twitterdom, never again feeling the urge to communicate his thoughts to strangers?
I suspect his highly presentable second wife, lingerie model Danielle, is a factor in his decision. What trophy wife worthy of the name would tolerate a husband’s obsessive communication with strangers?
Honours, hidden in plain sight
Pizza magnate Rumi Verjee, who has offshore business interests, has given £770,000 to the Lib Dems since 2010, but would it be unseemly to reward him with a life peerage?
Deputy premier and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has criticised people who transact business offshore. So has his colleague Danny Alexander, the affable chief secretary to the Treasury.
Yet Verjee is being ‘actively considered’ for a peerage, according to a news report. He already has a CBE for supporting charitable activities. ‘It’s cash for peerages all over again,’ says Labour MP John Mann.
Businessman and Lib Dem donor, Rumi Verjee, seen here listening to Nick Clegg’s speech at the party Conference last year has given £770,000 to the Lib Dems since 2010
Cash for peerages? Isn’t that what Labour was accused of? Indeed, there was a Scotland Yard investigation. No ‘evidence’ was found that the peerages fixed by Labour were awarded in exchange for cash.
What is needed is an investigation into why no evidence was found that politicians flog peerages for cash when it is so blindingly obvious that they have done and continue to do so.
When questioned about the massacre of oil workers in Algeria by jihadist Muslims William Hague went vague
Hague goes vague on us
Foreign Secretary William Hague was questioned on TV yesterday about the massacre of oil workers, at least five of them British, in Algeria by jihadist Muslims.
He was asked how he could condemn those responsible when some might previously have enjoyed our support as they brought down dictator Muammar Gaddafi in neighbouring Libya.
Hague hummed and hawed in a broad Yorkshire accent, his default setting when in a tight spot.
Later, the Prime Minister trotted out the old line about terrorists who simply seek to kill us, as if they sacrificed their lives for no other purpose.
It’s all so much more complicated than they let on, but keeping us in ignorance is preferred by Cameron and Co.
Can gun control put Obama on Mt Rushmore?
Barack Obama’s second inauguration is attended by hopes that he can achieve presidential greatness in his second term. At present, he can claim only the historical perch of being the U.S.’s first black President.
Achieving real gun control against the odds might do it, and could lead to his likeness being carved on Mount Rushmore. Clinton got assault rifles banned, but the law had a ‘sunset clause’, meaning it expired and was not renewed by the succeeding Bush administration.
Chiselled features: How Obama might look in stone on Mount Rushmore
Obama could remind America’s gun nuts that the Second Amendment they revere — allowing them to bear arms, supposedly to oppose Government tyranny — cut no ice with the FBI when it set out to extirpate the leadership of the Black Panthers, the U.S.’s black Socialist party, in the Seventies.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond described the death of four climbers in an avalanche as an ‘appalling tragedy’
This involved infiltration, perjury, police harassment, assassination and other tactics designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate party members and drain the organisation of resources, manpower — and, of course, firearms.
The death of four mountaineers in Glencoe is sad news for their families and friends, but is it what Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, called ‘an appalling tragedy’?
Salmond added: ‘To lose four people from a party of six is truly devastating.’
Climbing when the possibility of avalanches is high must be considered a risk-taking enterprise.
That may be part of its appeal.
Surely to be killed doing something dangerous which one loves is less of an appalling tragedy than being murdered, killed in a freak accident or becoming a victim of terrorism.
Having said that, I can understand why Salmond felt he had to err on the side of sensitivity on this occasion. Only those close to the victims are allowed to say they died doing something they loved.
Heathrow airport’s snow horror: blame flaky politicians – Daily Mail
Top Stories – Google News