20 Jan 2011

Winter operating standards for airports

1:04 pm on 20 January 2011

The EU says European airports must be ready to meet minimum service standards to prevent a repeat of this winter's travel disruptions.

A total of 35,000 flights were cancelled in December because of freezing temperatures and heavy snow.

Thousands of passengers were forced to sleep overnight at European airports when flights were grounded.

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said that airports must introduce contingency plans and warned EU legislation was looming.

"We know that winter arrives every year and we should be ready for it," he said.

After a meeting with officials from several European airports including Paris, Frankfurt, Heathrow and Schiphol, Mr Kallas said the responsibility to plan for extreme weather conditions lay with the aviation industry but the EU would do all it could to help passengers.

"We need to introduce minimum service and quality requirements at European airports for our passengers," he said.

"Those requirements will form part of legislative proposals due later this year."

Mr Kallas urged airports to provide him "as soon as possible" with a progress report on contingency planning for next winter.

The BBC reports airport operators said the volume of snow was exceptional in December and that safety concerns were their priority.