EU threatens snowbound airports with regulation

By Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS (BestGrowthStock) – Europe’s transport chief said Tuesday he was considering forcing airports to provide airlines with a minimum level of infrastructure support during severe weather, such as this week’s snowstorms.

European Union transport commissioner Siim Kallas made his comments after more than 3,000 flights were canceled across Europe Monday, according to flight authority Eurocontrol.

“In recent days, I have become increasingly concerned about the problems relating to the infrastructure available to airlines — airports and ground handling — during this severe period of snow,” Kallas said in a statement.

“We need to ensure that, from infrastructure providers such as airports and rail infrastructure managers, there are appropriate service levels and minimum quality requirements that are followed and delivered,” he said.

“If there is a need for support from the European Commission in terms of regulation on minimum service requirements for airports in this area, I am prepared to do that.”

BAA, which operates London’s Heathrow airport and is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, said the world’s busiest international airport hub would again operate at reduced capacity Tuesday.

Analysts believe the freezing conditions will hit the profit of British Airways by around 10 million pounds ($15.55 million) a day.

Kallas’ spokeswoman told reporters that the European Commission, which drafts EU laws, was working on a package of regulations to cover airports, and that rules on minimum service could be imposed.

She said Kallas had a preference for airports to deal with the problems themselves, and would only intervene if they proved incapable.

“We’re taking very clear note of what the airlines are signaling very clearly, which is their frustration at the infrastructure that’s being provided to them… and their struggle that they’re being held back by severe difficulties with the airports’ capacity and ground handling,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

EU threatens snowbound airports with regulation