Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hounslow Central

More opprobium has been heaped upon the Spanish owners of BAA about the parlous state of the World's Least Favourite Airport. No lesser authority than Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Steve Ridgway commented in a speech to the great and the good of the industry at the Aviation Club that "Heathrow is ruining the experience of air travel." It continues a campaign by Virgin against BAA and is part of an effort by the airline to put pressure on the CAA to improve standards.

Two weeks ago the CAA proposed increasing landing charges by 15.6% for 2008-09, followed by another increase the next year of 7.5% above inflation. So clearly bad news for operators. He went on to accuse the CAA of "rewarding poor performance". He sounded a lot like Kitty Ussher, the City minister, when he claimed that Heathrow was damaging the whole economy; "Heathrow is a horrible experience; it is ruining air travel. How frustrating is it for a crew who work hard on overnight flights from other parts of the world to find our passengers having to queue for two hours at immigration."

It's not only the passengers and staff who find Heathrow miserable; the residents of some parts of London who live under the flight path have to endure appalling noise pollution. I recently stayed with friends near Richmond, that quiet, civilised and leafy suburb in West London. Or at least it's quiet until the planes start coming over at the crack of dawn (if it's your turn to take the traffic - it alternates around various approach paths to give some respite). The noise was simply astonishing, and is repeated at as little as 90 second intervals. Imagine what that does to your kid's sleeping pattern (we didn't have to imagine it!) never mind yours.

Paris has shifted its main airport twice, Hong Kong has managed it without a hitch, Munich has as well, to name but a few. Not to mention the densely populated area occupied by Heathrow which hems in expansion and adds to ground transport chaos. Lots of lovely flat land without much on it out to the east. Answers on a (electronic) post card please...


laradunston said...

Heathrow has *always* been one of the world's airports. That's one of the main reasons I always avoid flights via London. I'll pass through anywhere but Heathrow. Charles de Gaulle is not much better though. Love your blog, by the way. Just blogged about it in a post on air travel blogs.

Richard Havers said...

Thanks Lara for your nice comments. I live near Edinburgh and always try to avoid Heathrow. I'm convinced that Heathrow's expansion took place years ago and aircraft are parked ten miles from the terminals; it always seems that far when you have to walk to make the connections. Gatwick is better, although it's a bit of a quart into a pint pot at times. Schiphol remains my favourite.